Friday, October 9, 2009

Paramore - "Brand New Eyes" (2009) — Aggro Is The New Orange!

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Paramore has been one of my favorite groups for quite some time now. A good deal of my enjoyment of them comes from their incredible boost to my rock-ego. I discovered them on teh interwebs back in 2005 and was quite enthusiastic about them then too; needless to say, the ability to snobbishly claim that I had "known them before they were popular" is a plum that has been been very sweet indeed. I also was able to see them during the 2007 Warped Tour, and their energy and stage presence blew me away, particularly that of front girl Hailey Williams (okay, she's cute too, so what?).

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Paramore circa 2005. This is me being hardcore and band-cred.

Pop-punk is my musical drug of choice, and Paramore has slung out some meaty hooks and soaring harmonies with the best of them the past few years, but their new album Brand New Eyes brings some additional focus to the musical stylings that helped make them popular. I wouldn't venture so far as to say they've gained some "maturity" in the general way that word is used ("they've grown up and stopped making songs for teenagers"), but rather they've tightened up their songwriting and honed their sound to a razor-fine point. Here is an album that, while not as hooky as previous efforts, is far more melodic and consistent throughout, and one I feel I can listen to more often than either All We Know Is Falling or Riot!.

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Warped Tour '07 in Salt Lake. They signed my Riot! artwork, but since it's covered with scribbles anyways, I wonder if that was such a hot idea...

Make no mistake: there are still moments of energetic handclaps and "woah-oh" singalongs (see singles "Ignorance" and "Brick By Boring Brick"), but they've taken the backseat to a newer, leaner sound. The word I've been using to describe it is "aggro:" their guitars punch more, the drums sling their weight around in staccato bursts, and their sound overall is quick and hard-hitting, for pop-punk (no track better personifies the changes than opener "Careful").

Williams, too, seems to have gained some teeth from Paramore's previous record. She snarls when appropriate and drives home every line of heartbreak and bitterness with the palpable conviction of a fistfight. These moments combine with Paramore's happier-sounding songs ("Looking Up;" "Playing God") and softer sections ("The Only Exception;" "Misguided Ghosts") to give Brand New Eyes robust sonic variety and, oddly, a sense of cohesion that has been missing from previous efforts.

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Two years and lots of media drama later, Paramore is back with one heck of an album.

Unfortunately, while I certainly am impressed with the package Paramore has put together, I can't quite give this one a top-shelf score. Perhaps I will be blessed with greater appreciation as time goes on, but I never really felt there was that extra oomph that pushed this album over the top; the album never hits any lows, but I feel like there could have been one or two high points that could have made it something extra special. This sort of criticism, however, is petty at best; when the whole product is this good, I'm not going to complain that one or two specific songs weren't outstanding.

While Brand New Eyes may be missing hooky, pop-punk gems like "Pressure" or "That's What You Get," it's Paramore's most solid, consistent album to date, and certainly my favorite of their so far. I can't wait to see what else they have up their sleeves in the coming years.

8/10
Download This: "Ignorance," "Brick By Boring Brick," "The Only Exception"

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