Showing posts with label paramore. Show all posts
Showing posts with label paramore. Show all posts

Monday, May 15, 2017

video review: 'after laughter' by paramore

Look, maybe the group just isn't for me at this point... but still, I had hopes for this and am a little dispirited they didn't materialize.

But on the topic of failed hopes... well, after Billboard BREAKDOWN, stay tuned!

album review: 'after laughter' by paramore

I think somebody needs to explain to me what is the hype behind Paramore - because the more I listen to their material, the less I'm seeing it.

That's not saying they're bad - their first three records are a respectable slice of emo-leaning pop rock, with Riot! probably being the best of them, but even then I was never really wowed by the writing or the performances or the production - good music, sure, but nothing I'd actively seek out or that I thought stood out against the rest of the pop rock boom. Then there was the self-titled album in 2013 that I actually reviewed for a year-end anniversary, an album released after the lead guitarist and drummer quit... and again, for mid-2010s pop rock released on Fueled by Ramen, it certainly checked off the boxes, but I did not understand all the critical acclaim that was piled on that record. There were a few catchy singles, sure, and Hayley Williams' brand of colorful theatrics had its moments - helped by self-aware songwriting that was getting better - but at the end of the day I was lukewarm on the project at best, and I have not had any inclination to revisit that album since.

So I wasn't remotely surprised when they decided to pivot towards retro-new wave for their newest record - sure, their bassist was now gone, but producer Justin Mendel-Johnsen was filling in and they actually got their old drummer Zac Farro back. Hell, I wasn't even surprised by the change in direction - punk acts have gone new wave to stay relevant since the late 70s, this is not new. What did catch my attention was the emphasis on how trying this recording session apparently was, and how much that struggle had translated into the rather dark themes contrasting with the brighter instrumentation - again, this isn't new, but as a more polished spin on their emo-leaning lyrics in the past it could make for an interesting listen, so how does After Laughter turn out?

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 13, 2017 (VIDEO)

I think people who were a lot higher on the Paramore song probably enjoyed this week a lot more than I did... meh, it happens.

But next up, we've got something that's waited FAR too long... stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - may 13, 2017

So I was expecting this week to feel dispiriting. Kendrick falls off the top spot, the aftermath of DAMN. as the chart naturally corrects to a less promising state... but here's the honest truth: despite some absolute trash on the Hot 100 right now, I'm generally pretty pleased with the current state of affairs. Good songs have held enough traction to make a serious shot at the year-end list, I'm seeing promising continuity into the summer, and while there are problems, they feel isolated in comparison with the larger trends. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

video review: 'paramore' by paramore (year one anniversary)

Man, this video took a ton out of me to get out. Would have been up yesterday, but the process to get everything to work was absolutely nuts, and that's not counting the noise complaint, the numerous glitches, and the upload process that kept failing. Thankfully, it works, and I sincerely hope it's everything you could have wanted.

And as we settle into the doldrums of summer, my schedule lightens significantly. I still want to talk about Open Mike Eagle - late, but still relevant - and Sadistik, but coming up soon is that new album from Rise Against, on which I will be joining as a special guest, so stay tuned for that!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

album review: 'paramore' by paramore

I don't think anybody should have been surprised by Paramore's career trajectory - and that anybody who knows my style of reviews should not really be surprised why I completely passed them by in 2013.

See, Paramore started off in the mid-2000s as a band loosely affiliated with emo with the harsher guitars, but it was a band that had its eyes fixed on one particular bandwagon: that of the pop starlets with attitude in the vein of Pink or Avril Lavigne or Kelly Clarkson. And considering this was a subgenre I liked in the decidedly uncertain pop landscape of the mid-2000s, when I was a teenager, you'd think I would have jumped on the Paramore bandwagon... but no, every single I heard from the band never really impressed me. That first album All We Know Is Falling was decent enough for its teenage angst and decent and Hayley Williams was a born star behind the microphone, but the songwriting did nothing for me whatsoever, lacking the colour and description and rawness that always gave Pink or Avril Lavignre distinctive presence. And coupled with some bare-bones melody lines and not stellar production, I could not have been less interested in Paramore.

Then came the second record Riot!, which was better and had 'Misery Business', 'crushcrushcrush', and 'Fences', three songs that actually had some interesting melodies and some better articulated subject matter. But for the most part most of the album fell into the grey zone of pop rock for me, lacking the edginess or punch of rock or the gripping hooks of pop to really stick with me, and while the songwriting had gotten better, I couldn't help but feel that the production was holding this album back from being truly great - just a little too flat and lacking in melodic focus to really stick with me. And with the slow collapse of the pop rock boom and rumors of instabilities within the band, I didn't expect to see another record. But in 2009 they apparently resolved enough of their differences to release Brand New Eyes, which was okay and did show a bit of improvement in the songwriting, but it wasn't as catchy or interesting as Riot! and it was this album that brought 'The Only Exception', which for me sealed Paramore's new pop direction after pop rock dropped off the mainstream radar.

And with that shift came a change in lineup, as the brothers Josh and Zac Farro both left the band in 2011 for reasons that spanned creative differences, accusations that Hayley Williams was being trumped up as the star over the rest of the band, and even conflicts in relligion and the band's content. Either way, it was an entirely different act that released Paramore's self-titled album last year, one of their biggest and most successful to date. So now, you're all looking for me to answer the big question: is it any good?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

album review: 'in defense of the genre' by say anything (RETRO REVIEW)

I have to be honest, it's not often I do real 'retro reviews', and there's a very good reason for that. As much as I could go on and on about certain acts and how much I like their material, I feel that without the appropriate context/situation, there's isn't much of a point for me to talk about these acts. It'd be rather self-indulgent, and while I don't exactly have a huge problem with that, I'd prefer to actually talk about something that is relevant to the conversation today.

Now that's not saying I won't do retrospective reviews - far from it, actually. In fact, I think I can definitively nail down three reasons why I would do a retro review of an album or a movie: it relates to a current subject in a direct manner that allows me to fuse the review with an essay; it's something I didn't get a chance to cover earlier in the year and I want to cover it so I'm prepared when year-end rolls around; and finally, on request (and even then it's iffy, because there are some acts I will refuse to touch on principle).

And even with that, I haven't written that many retrospective reviews. There were the Nolan-Batman retrospectives (here and here), the reviews of James Blake and Tegan & Sara earlier this year (the latter of which I remember most for my essay on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope), and the two reviews I've written on request: that of Avenged Sevenfold's self-titled album and that of an album by The Beards. Completely unsurprisingly, the two albums I reviewed on request were not even close to good, which makes sense in a twisted sort of way. After all, the Internet likes to give critics shit to review so we can fly into highly entertaining rages.

I want you all to understand that to clarify that when I got the request to review In Defense of the Genre, the collaborator-studded album by Say Anything, I stepped in with high hopes but extremely low expectations. As a band with no real pop success to speak of - albeit some measure of critical acclaim, but that can mean anything these days - I had actually never heard any of this band's material before beginning this review. Keep in mind that when I started listening to the pop-punk and emo music of the 2000s, I jumped onto the bandwagon in 2007, which was in the peak of mainstream success but not critical acclaim (as I've said before, I spent the majority of the mid-2000s listening to power and symphonic metal). I might have been listening to Fall Out Boy and Panic! At The Disco and the occasional MCR or Jimmy Eat World track, but I certainly wasn't familiar with the more underground segments of the genre, so I was very unfamiliar with Say Anything. So as usual, I opted to examine the albums leading up to In Defense Of The Genre so I might have an idea about what Say Anything was like. What I did I think?

Well, I have mixed feelings. Say Anything burst into the indie scene with Baseball, an album that the band has never really been proud of and have refused to play tracks from for a long time. On the one hand, I definitely understand why: if we're looking for albums that embodied the teenage emo aesthetic, Baseball would immediately jump to the top of that list. With the haphazard production, sloppy but occasionally excellent guitar work, and raw anger and petulance in Max Bemis' vocals, Baseball would be indistinguishable from a dozen other emo bands of the time, but what impressed me was the genuine emotion in Bemis' delivery and the sharper-than-average songwriting. The band had a certain degree of wit around them that I can definitely see elevated them over their peers - within their genre, of course. And that's where the biggest problem with Baseball comes up - it's painfully high school when it comes to subject matter, filled with all of the associated drama from that period. And while I definitely can see why disaffected teenagers would love the raw, unbridled anger in Say Anything, anyone with an ounce of perspective would find Baseball more than a little juvenile. 

But on the other hand, I will give credit where it's due - Say Anything definitely captured that spirit with their opening album, and while the band might have lacked nuance, they made up for it with passion. So unsurprisingly, they got signed and released their second album ...Is A Real Boy, which managed the impossible: not only did the band preserve their sound and wit, they actually got better. In fact, ...Is A Real Boy really nailed down in my mind what Say Anything did well, namely they fused intelligently biting lyrics with real passion. I'm not reminded of any of the traditional L.A. emo bands but instead of The Barenaked Ladies, both in the acrid dark humour of the lyrics and the simplistic yet extraordinarily catchy melodies (plus, they reference Nick Cave multiple times, which is automatic bonus points from me). 

But what I find most fascinating about ...Is A Real Boy is the theme - while Say Anything could have chosen to focus inwardly about Max Bemis' own neuroses (and he did have them, as he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, actively abused drugs, and was eventually checked into a mental institution), they instead directed their attentions at their genre. Of course, they were an emo band so most of the songs were written from the perspective of the band, but they still had a much stronger tendency to focus outwardly. In short, much of their material was targeted at the music industry and the toxic culture surrounding it, and they had the smart songwriting to disguise their words behind some surprisingly intricate metaphors. And when they weren't attacking the industry, they were writing very literate, occasionally high-concept material like 'Yellow Cat (Slash) Red Cat' (one of the major highlights of the album, a nuanced discussion of human complacency), 'Every Man Has A Molly' (the nasty aftermath of airing dirty laundry through music - take notes, Taylor Swift), 'I Want To Know Your Plans' (probably the closest thing to an honest love song Say Anything ever wrote), and 'Admit It!!!' (my other favourite track, a brutally articulate spoken-word-filled diatribe against hipsters that's eons harsher than anything I will ever write).

So it isn't surprising in the slightest is that Say Anything very quickly built some major artistic clout in the industry, particularly around the L.A. emo scene, and combined with Bemis' growing reputation as a mad genius, it's not a surprise he managed to rope in twenty-three guest vocalists for his newest project and the topic of my review today. In Bemis' own words, the album had a twofold purpose: an autobiographical exploration of his mental breakdown and recovery; and a tribute to the other emo bands and genre Say Anything liked. Do they succeed?