Paramore’s new, self-titled, album is its highest charting to date, debuting at number one on both the UK and US album charts. It is also one of the band’s more critically appreciated albums to date. This all comes in spite of the fact that this album, the fourth studio album of its career, is the first since the departure of founding members Josh and Zac Farro.
With the Brothers Farro gone, the band’s remaining members, Hayley Williams, Jeremy Davis, and Taylor York, are left to pick up the songwriting load that had typically been carried by Josh Farro. And the three have seemed to fare pretty well, crafting an album of 17 (!) pretty stellar tracks. Though it’s certainly the group’s poppiest effort to date, incorporating more pop production techniques and varied approaches to songwriting, Paramore still holds onto its pop-punk roots. Williams sounds as good as ever and amongst the softer pop tracks, the band shows they still know how to rock on songs like “Be Alone”, “Anklebiters”, and “Daydreaming”.
Throughout the almost 64 minutes of music, there are some truly incredible moments both lyrically and musically. We wanted to go through the album and pick out five of our favorite moments on the album. We could have picked pretty much any part of any song from the album, because it’s all great, but these are the ones that stood out the most.
1. Dissing the Farros on “Fast in My Car”
Opening track “Fast in My Car” seems to deal with the band’s feelings on the Farro Brothers’ departure pretty directly. The song describes how the three remaining members felt while Josh and Zac were still in the band in not so polite terms:
“The three of us were initiates
We had to learn how to deal
And when we spotted a second chance
We had to learn how to steal
Hollowed out and filled up with hate
All we want is you to give us a break”
But the chorus is a bit more positive about the situation, claiming that the band is focusing on the future and instead of dwelling on the past (though writing a song about this kinda seems like dwelling on the past, right?).
2. “Let the Flames Begin” References on “Part II”
Speaking of dwelling on the past, how about “Part II”? Unmistakably a “part two” to Paramore’s song “Let the Flames Begin” from 2007’s Riot!, “Part II” is full of lyrical and musical references to the original, and it’s pretty cool! Though far from a copy-cat, there are direct quotes placed alongside the new material of the song which will make long-time fans excited and feel more special than new listeners who don’t catch the allusions. (And isn’t that all that matters?)
Aside from the general atmosphere and timbre of the songs, the two tracks share a lot of the same lyrical and musical material. And although neither song is strictly narrative, “Part II” feels like what comes after “Let the Flames Begin”.
Both songs open with the lyric “What a shame”. In “Let the Flames Begin”, this is followed with “we all became such fragile broken things”, whereas “Part II” follows it with “we all remain such fragile broken things”, implying a passing of time from one song to the next. “Part II” also makes frequent use of the line “Oh glory”, which uses the same melody as when it is sung in “Let the Flames Begin”.
The chorus of “Part II” slightly changes the content of the chorus in “Let the Flames Begin”. In the original song, the chorus refers to an “us” dancing together, but in “Part II”, that “us” becomes a “me”, explicitly stating that the narrator is “dancing all alone”.
Further, the lyric in the first verse, “Butterflies with punctured wings”, could be a reference to the cover of their 2009 album Brand New Eyes, which features a butterfly split into three pieces.
3. Stripping Down for the Interludes
Spaced throughout the album are three “Interlude” tracks, which are essentially three mini songs that feature mostly just a ukulele and Williams singing. On each track, perhaps not surprisingly, she seems to be singing once again about the Farros.
The first interlude, “Moving On”, Has the ukulele accompanied by a steady bass drum as Williams sings such loving lines as “Let ‘em spill their guts cause one day they’re gonna slip on ‘em”. But it’s ok, because she goes on to sing that she could be angry, but that they’re not worth the time, and she reminds us (though it seems more like she’s trying to remind herself), that she’s “moving on”. The second interlude, “Holiday”, begins with Williams singing “Now I can move onto facing big girl problems”, apparently following her self-instructions of the first interlude. She goes on to detail aspects of her life that show that she’s grown up and more mature, this time over the ukulele and an electric bass in a nice reggae groove. The implied foils here are again Josh and Zac Farro. In the final interlude, “I’m Not Angry Anymore”, with just a ukulele and vocals, Williams seems to be sending mixed messages. Almost every phrase sung is immediately contradicted or qualified, like “I’m not angry anymore, well sometimes I am.” This bratty resignation seems to counter the maturity she shows in the second interlude, and leaves the disjointed suite on a playful and cutesy note.
These tracks are great for getting to hear Williams’ voice in a different context, stripping the band down to its smallest configuration and letting us hear a sweeter, more delicate side of her vocals. Although none of the tracks amount to much on their own, together they create an interesting narrative arc about dealing with the founding members’ departure.
4. The Guitar and String Melody at the End of “Hate to See Your Heart Break”
Perhaps the point of furthest removal from their traditional pop-punk sound, “Hate to See Your Heart Break” is a sprawling and cinematic pop ballad complete with beautiful harmonies, lush strings, and intimate lyrics. After a full three minutes and 45 seconds, the song moves into an instrumental outro for the final minute and a half. Lead by a simple reverbed electric guitar melody, lush Hollywood strings come in and dance around, doubling the melody, adding harmony, or moving in counterpoint. As the drums and bass remain steady throughout and allow the other instruments, including a bubbling glockenspiel, to soar overhead in what is truly the most beautiful moment of this album, or perhaps any album of this year so far.
5. Hayley Williams’ Vocals on the “Still Into You” Break
It would be hard to find someone who would say that the main appeal to Paramore for them is anything other than Hayley Williams. Her voice is huge and versatile. It’s powerful and instantly recognizable, and generally holds the music together. This is not to say that their songwriting isn’t great or that they’re productions aren’t exciting, but Hayley Williams is simply the best element, and she shines throughout this entire album. Perhaps her best moment, though, comes before the last chorus of second single, “Still Into You”. The track breaks down to a steady bass drum, a palm-muted guitar, and a distant synth bass. Williams sings the main hook, softly and sweetly, and the repeats it expanded, singing “Baby not a day goes by that I’m not into you”, whereupon she crescendos into her full voice, pushing her range to its limits with power and control. As she finishes her impressive vocal riff, the drums kick back into high gear and bring us back into a full chorus to end the song.