Paramore – This Is Why: Review

With Paramore’s last two albums, they swimmingly attempted new sonic styles, like New Wave, Power-Pop, and Dance-Punk. It was consistent, containing many moments where they took the extra step to deliver something refreshing and new, even if minimal. On their new album, This Is Why, there is a shift in tone, sonically, where it starts to get more in tune with the mood exhumed in the songwriting and vocal performances. The music remains refined despite taking fewer chances with the instrumentals, leaving the hype from the first single comes with some solid payoffs, as we see an ongoing maturity within their lyricism and punk sound. But with these off-shoots that feel less inspired, there are a few stumbles within its song-to-song transitions. However, that maturity trumps its consistency problems, leaving way for a loose listen that will strike a chord with many fans from its lyricism and some sick production choices.

Carlos De La Garza’s work is unlike that of Justin Meldal-Johnsen, who brought a sense of whimsy with the colorful After Laughter – tracks “Hard Times” and “Fake Happy” being examples of such. Garza’s work is more nuanced, letting the subtle notes shine. Garza’s mixing has shown us a smooth flourish on past Paramore albums. However, taking hold of the production on their new album, he conducts some light compositions that retread direct familiarity in pop-punk with typical chords riffs, and drum patterns, like the tracks “Figure 8” or “Running Out of Time.” There is a solid equilibrium in the work Garza brings here. He’s delivering an understanding of Paramore’s aesthetic, highlighting the synergizing grooves, creating dynamic duo moments between Hayley Williams’ vocals and Taylor York’s Guitar or Zach Ferro’s drum playing. 

Beginning with “This is Why” and “The News,” they imbue this captivating dance-punk aesthetic, individually adding a distinct combination, like the funk notes in the former or the fun and pragmatic math rock of the latter. Ending with “Crave” and “Think Skull” adds great contrast, where it’s not one enigmatic production boasted by vocals, instead letting their instrumentations boast the emotional density of Hayley Williams’ vocals. Fortunately, we get the best of both in this tremendous wave of three songs that bring forth the best of what the album offers, including the infectious “C’est Comme Ça.” These sequences are like quick highs that get stumbled by some lesser production, with “C’est Comme Ça” being part of the longest streak, containing the infectious “You First.” They build upon a core aesthetic, creating sensibly magnific and moody performances that make these weaker tracks feel more derivative. 

It’s less potent on these weaker tracks, but it’s there, keeping in-tact a consistency for the band, where there are positives in the forgettable. For one, there is less vibrancy and more of a standard fair that gets rooted in straightforward pop-punk, almost feeling like the bare bones parallel for something like “You First.” “Running Out of Time” and “Liar” aren’t as engaging, almost leaving you hanging dry after seemingly taking you to new heights with “The News.” It’s similar to “Liar.” A pleasant ballad that is simply melancholic with the percussion and strings without character, “Liar” feels less engaging than the crisp pop-punk ballad nostalgia of “Crave” or the tenderness within the guitar strings of “Thick Skull.” It’s profound in its delivery that the simplicity has depth radiating from the balance it gives Willaims’ vocals. In doing so, you hear the depth of some of their songwriting – other times, you don’t, and when you don’t, it can then fall on the production to hook you.

“Running Out of Time” plays with Williams’ poor time management skills; however, unlike the lyrics, the melodies or production aren’t as captivating. “Figure 8” is a not-so-dense break-up song slightly like “Big Man, Little Dignity,” which isn’t as profound but catchy – there are some solid moments in the vocal performances. They hide in the lyrical shadows of tracks like “The News” and “Thick Skull;” the former, like “Running Out of Time,” reflects matured angst, letting their relevancy keep up with old fans and new. There is balance between vocals and instrumentations that boasts these emotional layers within the lyrics, giving some nuanced performances more potency, like“C’est Comme Ça.” Paramore brings sheer power with that emotional brevity, leaving space for its instrumentations to breathe fluidly. And It’s within that equilibrium that we’ve seen Paramore shine. Carlos De La Garza’s production work solidly connects the dots, so even the forgetful tracks have an identity within their sound.

Paramore’s new album, This Is Why, isn’t moving the needle for them, but it doesn’t set them back as they continue to deliver great work. Their shift from Power-Pop and New Wave to more Dance-Punk/Post-Punk/Pop-Punk is seamless, transitioning smoother than expected between tracks. Carlos De La Garza finds a clean balance between the vocals and production, allowing them to have emotional density, even when the writing can get subpar. It doesn’t lament too long on these typical sonic motions. However, it doesn’t give me that eager tenacity to return so swiftly, unlike Paramore’s last album, After Laughter.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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