It’s been two days since the release of Paramore’s After Laughter, and lead vocalist Hayley Williams will cry if she wants to. The Nashville-natives’ fifth studio album details the band’s latest journey through lyrics of growth, frustration, and apparently lots of tears in a collection of 12 synth-based pop tracks.
After Laughter was officially released to the world three years after the band’s prior self-titled release Paramore, plenty of time to showcase Paramore’s development and change since we last heard their sound. Right from the album’s bubbly lead track “Hard Times,” it’s apparent that though the band’s once angsty rock riffs may be long gone, things haven’t changed all that much lyrically from Paramore of the past.
“Really all I’ve got is just to stay pissed off/If it’s alright by you,” croons the now bleach-blonde vocalist on “Rose-Colored Boy.” On past albums, most messages of anger and despair were followed by anthemic tracks of hope and light. “Rose-Colored Boy,” among other tracks on After Laughter, proves that Williams is through with constantly putting on a show.
And while Williams showcases her most honest lyrics and perfectly polished vocal arrangements yet, the support of guitarist Taylor York and newly returned drummer Zac Farro make this album Paramore’s catchiest LP yet. The return of Farro after his 2010 departure brings a cohesive harmony back to Paramore that was missing from their self titled. On York’s end, the multi-instrumentalist’s discovery of a marimba brings a beachy, feel-good vibe to almost every track.
Musically, After Laughter features the most relaxed recordings seen on any Paramore album, (“Forgiveness,” “26,” “Tell Me How”), but still manages to keep consistent the tropical vibe that is present everywhere else on the album.
From start to finish, After Laughter covers just about every Paramore-related topic in their history. “Grudges” tells the story of a rekindling partnership between Farro and Williams in a tune that is both futuristic and 80’s inspired. “Tell Me How” seems to delve into the hurt felt by Williams after the departure of ex-bassist and long time friend of the band, Jeremy Davis. “No Friend” discusses both of those topics and more, using old song titles and lyrics to detail Paramore’s 14 year history in a poetic track, all lyrics spoken by MewithoutYou vocalist Aaron Weiss.
Paramore is very much (still) a band comprised of three core members, and After Laughter is their strongest representation of this yet. Still, some of After Laughter’s strongest tracks are “Fake Happy,” “Caught in the Middle,” and “Idle Worship,” songs in which Williams steals the show, unapologetically discussing her struggles with depression, fame, and forced happiness.
Some fans might leave this album feeling nostalgic for the band Paramore once was. Listeners might feel tempted to say the band has “sold out,” ditching their rock roots for a flowering pop sound. While there is no denying that any song off After Laughter could sit comfortably among the songs currently gracing Top 40 radio, Paramore is far from being insincere.
After Laughter is an unexpected but respectable representation of the band Paramore has grown up to be. The conflicting relationship between York and Farro’s upbeat sounds mixed with Williams’ sometimes pessimistic lyrics embody the dynamic Paramore has spent 4 previous albums working to perfect. And it’s safe to say they’ve done just that.
Listen to Paramore’s fifth studio album After Laughter here.