“This Is Why,” Paramore (Atlantic Records)
Paramore is the pop-punk band of people’s lives. Nostalgia is wrapped around the band’s identity but they never allow it to overshadow the music. In fact, in their sixth studio album, “This Is Why,” they get angrier, pricklier and funkier, all the while merging the band’s past and future, levitating way beyond their icon status to something else entirely.
The Nashville-born and raised band were formed in 2004 when lead singer Hayley Williams, guitarist Taylor York and drummer Zac Farro were teens. They have been together for nearly two decades, and in their first album in five years, their comfortability and cohesion are fully on display in the almost perfectly composed 10-song record.
Williams questions power structures in a funky, rhythmic cautionary tale of the entertainment business (“Big Man Little Dignity”). She sings ironically with vim, “Your subscription to redemption has been renewed.” “The News,” a post-punk song brimming with empathy and anger with pristine production, analyzes the toll the endless 24-hour news cycle has on humanity.
“Running Out Of Time” a heavy-hitting soon-to-be classic Paramore favorite examines millennial dread and anxiety. Williams crones relatably: “There was traffic/Spilled my coffee/Crashed my car.”
In “Figure 8,” Paramore sounds the closest to their oldest ‘00s teen selves with weighty spinning guitar riffs and drums pounding in sync, with Williams singing self-loathingly, “All for your sake/Become the very thing I hate/I lost my way/Spinning in an endless figure 8.”
The album closes out with a gorgeous trio of songs, “Liar,” “Crave” and “Thick Skull.” “Liar” allows Williams to take a step back and authentically admit her self-disruptive tendencies in a lyrical ballad that cuts and bruises. “Oh, my love I lie to you/But never needed to/Oh my love, I lie to you/But you always knew the truth,” she sings.
Her breathy, heavenly vocals and snare drums from Farro fade into “Crave” another love song where she admits, “I romanticize even the worst of times/When all it took to make me cry was being alive.”
“Thick Skull” is a song only Paramore can make. It’s dark and introspective. It has its quiet moments but it grows and grows into a cathartic burst of Williams, York and Farro converging at once to create what is a satisfying close to a masterful evolutionary display of musicianship and teamwork.