First things first: Hayley Williams can sell the hell out of anything. No matter how in flux the Paramore line-up is, as long as she’s there, you can be sure she’ll do a good job. Their last album, released in 2013, had its moments despite the Farro brothers leaving – in fact, its best moments are when they let their hair down and have fun. The same is the case with After Laughter, but with a more obvious shift in sound: gone is the pop-punk they’ve made their name with, replaced with a clear new wave sheen, following the tactic of “more indie” bands like Two Door Cinema Club. The band also saw more changes in their line-up – they’re still a three-piece, but Zac Farro returned on drumming duties – so it’s another chance to reassess their sound and have fun with it. Clearly, they do. “Hard Times” may cause whiplash with its colorful sound, but they sell it – Hayley sells it – and succeed. Yes, the whole album being about, well, hard times may be too easy a theme considering how almost everything feels sunny. The theme gets too heavy too – it clearly wears them down by the middle of the album, and it sinks into old times, but with more gloom and less bang. But, man, Hayley Williams can sell the hell out of anything. If she goes, it’s a different story altogether. [NB] | 3/5
“Hard Times” by Paramore | I was not supposed to write about this song, but one, I haven’t had time to go through the inbox this week (I have six album reviews tomorrow!) and two, I’m flying to Cebu today for the day job. Well, there’s a third reason: people seem to be split over this song. Those younger than me like how Paramore – with Zac Farro returning on drums – has somewhat embraced the 80s-flavored indie pop sound of the past few months. (“Anyone hear the 1975?” “No, I hear Two Door Cinema Club!”) Those my age are struggling to like it. Some call it mediocre; others think it’s desperate. Me, well, I’m torn. One, Paramore can do good pop songs. (“Ain’t It Fun” still remains a favorite from that era.) But two – and this is not me clinging to old sounds, because I wasn’t into this group like my peers – tropical sounds just don’t fit Hayley Williams. But we’ll have to wait for the new album, After Laughter, to drop in three weeks’ time. Part of me thinks this is all an aberration, that there’s still the old, crunchy Paramore when you dig into the record. Then again, they represented a sound that became homogenous as it went on – and now, it seems, they’re latching on to another sound that has being homogenous as it goes on. [NB]
Well, that time of the year again, so let’s do what everybody else does and make a yearend list of the best of the year, shall we? But then again, we’re not really a legitimate music blog, so we’re just going small-term by talking about us, us, us. Like last year, this is by no means a representative list of the best music of the past year: these are all, really, my favorite tracks. But it has been an interesting year in music. The girls came out; the dance floor got quiet and merged with hip-hop; and guitar music is, well, still not quite back… but not all that gets a mention. Again, sorted in alphabetical order, my favorites: ten songs that you should soak in while we take a two-week break. We’ll be back on 6 January, unless, of course, surprise gigs get in the way, much like last year. [NB]
Shorn of the Farro brothers, Paramore suddenly have to redefine themselves, and their self-titled album is, well… weird. I did not listen to the album expecting the same old emo-ish anthems powered by Hayley Williams’ voice (still the best voice this side of Kelly Clarkson), judging from the garage sensibilities of “Now”. I do not mind the band having some fun trying to sort of find a new musical identity, as heard in their Click Five-y “Ain’t It Fun”. And sometimes you still hear something All You Hear Is Falling-y on tracks like “Daydreaming” and “Hate To See Your Heart Break”. But this 63-minute record feels a bit too much. Beach sing-alongs? Too-quirky ukelele asides? A gospel choir? This album will definitely split opinion, which sucks for a band who really needed to reassert themselves. This is their make-or-break album, and they sound a little too relaxed. | 3/5
“Now” by Paramore | Here you go, kids – the new single from Paramore, post half-split, still powered by Hayley Williams’ voice… and do I admit I’m a bit disappointed? Yeah, they split up, they haven’t had new material in years, and yeah, still, Hayley’s voice, same old bite, same old crunch, which is no mean feat… but I am a bit disappointed.