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Album Review: 'This Is Why' is a psychedelic reflection on time, nostalgia

It’s been a minute since Paramore, comprised of lead singer Hayley Williams, guitarist Taylor York and drummer Zac Farro, has released music, practically disappearing after the end of its “After Laughter” tour in 2018. Now, after a long five years, the band has finally returned with its sixth studio album, and its last with Atlantic Records, “This Is Why.”

“This Is Why,” unlike its predecessor “After Laughter,” is grungier in sound, with the band even taking to their Instagram to explain its array of themes. The night of its release, Paramore said in a post that the album focuses heavily on ideas such as “agoraphobia” and “cabin fever,” evident on the album’s title track, as well as others such as “moral superiority” and “nostalgia for things you’ve not yet experienced and did not know you even wanted to,” clearly found within songs like “Big Man, Little Dignity” and “Crave.”

Integrating sounds from all of their eras, Paramore seems like it's not afraid to reflect on their inner monologues, using spoken word and chaotic guitar riffs to symbolize their mental states, worries and overall constant shifting of mood, something everyone experienced heavily during the COVID-19 pandemic. While at times it may be hard to realize that the band has moved on from its 1980s alt-pop sound into one that is borderline psychedelic rock angst, this album is an overall sign of maturity from the band.

The psychedelics come through the most on one of the album’s opening tracks, “C’est Comme Ça,” a song that really doesn’t have many lyrics, but a lot of spoken words from Williams, who channels someone who is comfortable sitting in their discomfort. At the song’s peak, the vocals are just too good as she sings, “I know that regression is rarely rewarded / I still need a certain degree of disorder / I hate to admit getting better is boring / But the high cost of chaos, who can afford it?” A song about being in a state of denial and disillusionment with your own mental health, it makes a powerful impact throughout the rest of the album and is by far one of Paramore’s most unique tracks ever made.

As the album progresses, it’s important to acknowledge York’s amazing guitar playing, especially on “Big Man, Little Dignity.” This may by far be one of the better tracks on the album, feeling reminiscent of a Fleetwood Mac song as Williams’s scathing vocals and lyrics, along with dream-like production, help her open up about her past relationships. If you’ve ever been deceived by someone who possesses too much self-confidence, then this song perfectly describes this type of situation. While this song isn’t necessarily about revenge, it is about maturing, which is a concept that is the glue holding “This Is Why” together throughout its 10 tracks.

Moving through the rest of the album, it’s hard to find a song that simply isn’t overall fine in sound due to Williams’s vocal range, but songs such as “Liar” and “Thick Skull” cause the band to move backward in a sense, not quite fitting in with the upbeat nature of the rest of the album. Honestly, these tracks aren’t bad, but they don’t stand out, nor do they show any signs of growth from Paramore.

Luckily, “Running Out Of Time” is a track that could easily become one of the most recognizable from this album, proof that one of rock music’s biggest bands can relate to their audience just as the title suggests, running out of time. Centering around the guilt one feels for not taking the time to do the littlest things on their to-do list, this song’s tone emits a sense of panic and remorse, even if Williams adds a touch of sarcasm and humor to her voice throughout as she says, “Never mind, I hit the snooze on my alarm twenty times / But I was just so tired / There was traffic, spilled my coffee, crashed my car, otherwise/ Woulda been here on time.”

“Crave” is another standout that feels like sunshine with every listen. Nostalgic of all the good days in their lives, Paramore begs for more perfect moments, hence the title. Craving normalcy and peace outside of their hectic lives as musicians, it seems like the band just wants more time, another idea that makes its presence clear on almost every track. 

Lastly, even though this song was released beforehand, “The News” is a song that sounds like you’ve been transported back into 2007 during Paramore’s “Riot!” era. Targeting the media and its promotion of misinformation and biases, Williams is not afraid to call out the inconsistencies around her, singing, “Exploitative / Performative / Informative / And we don't know the half of it.” The most energetic out of all the tracks, York and Farro beat away at their instruments as Williams practically screams at the audience to wake up and smell the coffee, making the song an impressive display of Paramore’s synergy.

At the end of the day, “This Is Why” is simply a great album by Paramore, definitely worth the five-year wait. Even if there are some disappointing tracks sprinkled throughout, the band has redefined its sound yet again, daring to dive into new waters and take risks. The band has never sounded better, and this album will for sure be one of 2023’s most poignant and noteworthy.

Rating: 4 / 5


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