Welcome to Beandon’s Musical Corner, the only place on campus for in-depth, exhaustive reviews of the latest releases in rock, jazz, experimental … and pretty much everything else. Brandon Rupp (also known by his mononymous musical title “beandon,” under which he releases music and DJs as KZSU’s Student Music Director) explores a new title and gives unfiltered feedback, regardless of the genre. Feel free to send him music; he’d love to take a look!
We’re over a month into 2023, and the music industry seems to finally be picking up steam again. Fascinating releases by Parannoul, Kelela, Yo La Tengo and Lil Yachty have made up my listening this year, but one album in particular stands out to me: the new album from Tennessee emo-turned-post-punk band Paramore, “This Is Why.”
Paramore’s sixth record over the course of their nearly two-decade-long career, “This is Why” is quite an exciting change of pace for the dynamic three-piece. Like in their last album, 2017’s “After Laughter,” the band pivots their sound dramatically, this time trading that record’s new wave sheen for angular post-punk. They take clear inspiration from many groups, including Bloc Party and Talking Heads. Considering that those specific bands have made two of my favorite albums (“Silent Alarm” and “Remain in Light,” respectively), the writing was on the wall for me to love this album.
Paramore’s strengths come from their consistently strong fundamentals and infectious energy. Buoyant melodies, solid rhythms, great grooves and elastic guitar parts are all over the album, just as I’ve come to expect. However, with “This Is Why,” the band just does it all better: the song-for-song tempo hasn’t been this high for years, and the individual performances are probably the best of the band’s career. The ten-track album is just over thirty-five minutes and no track overstays its welcome. Each and every chorus on this album is powerful and memorable — for the first time since Alvvays’s “Blue Rev,” I’ve found an album where virtually every track could be released as a single.
At the same time, each track stands out in the grand scheme of the tracklist. My favorite track on the album (and perhaps my favorite track by the band) is the fantastic “You First.” This is the band’s finest chorus, and it just will not leave my head. The note-perfect transition from verse to chorus gets me every time: a colossal snare hit pierces through the mix to prepare you for an explosion of condensed melody. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that, in the past week, I have listened to it at least thirty or forty times. It’s everything I wanted from this album: a track that integrates the group’s original pop-punk sound with more complex rhythms and chord progressions.
However, the biting lyrics are also a highlight. “It turns out I’m living in a horror film / where I’m both the killer and the final girl” is an incredible line, and “karma’s gonna come for all of us / and I hope, well I hope, I just hope / I hope she comes / comes for you first!” is more bitter than Hayley Williams has been in a while. I bought tickets to see Paramore over the summer and I feel like it was worth it just for the chance to hear this searing track live.
Oh, and the rest of the album isn’t bad either. In all seriousness, the title track is undeniable. I feel the commentary on this track is the album’s most successful because Williams’s bizarre delivery adds another interpretive layer to it. In just over three minutes, the song transitions from tipsy falsetto crooning to gang-vocal chorus to staccato refrains to a belted ending. She’s on her A-game, delivering all of this on top of slinky basslines, Zac Ferro’s energetic drumming and Taylor York’s dramatic spurts of guitar noise.
“Running Out Of Time” is another great example of this dynamic. The band playfully shows off their talent throughout the track by stopping on a dime or throwing in a fun passage. Hayley even delivers her own backup vocals: “I’m always running out of time (she’s always running out of time).” My favorite part of the song is when she delays the word “time” at the end of the chorus and the bass and drums fill in the space with a massive riff.
Thankfully, there really isn’t a lot on “This Is Why” to complain about. Even the flippant “C’est Comme Ça” has won me over. The track’s chorus features the verbalization “na na na na” and somehow doesn’t annoy me. “Figure 8” introduces some fascinating rhythmic ideas — the song’s title perfectly matches the looping syncopation in the instrumental. The closer, “Thick Skull,” is very emotionally affecting, with a beautiful vocal performance, fantastic lyrics and a powerful linear structure. Through and through, Paramore delivers the goods.
The album isn’t perfect, though. The lyricism occasionally gets in the way of the rest of its strengths, with “The News” being the most notable example. The song ironically uses frustrating political buzzwords from the 2016 election such as “deplorables.” The lyrics reach the same conclusion as thousands of other songs made by jaded members of the information age: “Turn off those darned devices!” is anything but novel commentary. In fact, it was already getting a little old when Frank Zappa released the anti-TV satire song “I’m The Slime” in 1973 — fifty years ago! Still, “The News” is a track I’m not afraid to sing along to, and the lyrics don’t necessarily ruin the track’s kinetic appeal.
I think that’s what keeps me returning to this record — it’s just too confident and powerful to deny. Any minor nitpicks I have about a flubbed line or mixing quirk are nothing in comparison to the sheer talent on display here. Is it their best album? I don’t know. “After Laughter” and their self-titled are both pretty fantastic. Going into the Stanford Daily’s 263rd volume, I considered whether or not to continue this column alongside my responsibilities as Desk Editor. However, this album was a welcome reminder of the beauty of this role. Why review music? “This Is Why.” (That was too good to pass up.)
Editor’s Note: This article is a review and contains subjective opinions, thoughts and critiques.