After Laughter is the 5th studio album from American rock/pop band Paramore. Released on May 12, 2017, through Fueled by Ramen, After Laughter is a follow-up to their hugely successful self-titled album. After Laughter is produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen who also produced the self-titled album. To my surprise, they have replaced the fast and loud guitars from their pop punk days for more 80’s sounding, upbeat pop songs. The members of the band have been very vocal about their inspirations for the album, Talking Heads, No Doubt and Blondie to name a few. This wasn’t a turn I was expecting from the band, but I’m on board for the ride as this quickly became my favorite Paramore record to date.
The record opens with the song Hard Times. From the first line “All that I want is to wake up fine…” it really sets a tone for this record. Hayley Williams has been through a lot in the four years since their last release. Jeremy Davis, founding member and bassist, left the band in 2015 after a lawsuit over songwriting credits and even more recently, her divorce with New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert. Due to these events, the album lyrically can be quite depressing when analyzed, but is juxtaposed by a very catchy instrumental on nearly every track.
Following Hard Times, the track Rose Colored Boy carries the shimmery 80’s theme further with an almost cheerleader-like chant, “Low-key, no pressure/just hang with me and my weather”. I feel like this is fitting from Hayley talking about a rain cloud over her head in Hard Times. This track took a very interesting premise; Hayley is basically singing about a boy who sees the good in everything and how we can’t all be like him.
The guitar in Told You So really highlights Taylor York’s guitar playing. He is just all over the place on that track. This album is very rhythmic throughout but this song in particular really nails it.
On the track Forgiveness Hayley sings about not being able to forgive her former partner and for being one of the record’s slower tracks, the chorus is undoubtedly catchy and sounds very HAIM inspired. The background vocals really stand out to me in this one.
The following track Fake Happy transitions nicely out of Forgiveness with a stripped down acoustic intro quickly jumping into poppy synths where Hayley is saying that no one is really sincere in their happiness. Everyone is dealing with something and she believes that others put on a fake smile while battling inner conflict; under her bubbly exterior, she is unhappy. Paramore never fails to write an infectious chorus and Fake Happy is a testament to that.
Then we reach 26, a slowed down acoustic track with a callback to Brand New Eyes. Ultimately a bit of a tearjerker, Hayley urges us to hold on to hope and not let it go. (Hope that it seems like she may have lost over the years?) I love this song, but it feels slightly out of place in the middle of the album. I would have much preferred it closer toward the end to avoid it disrupting the flow of more heavily produced tracks.
Pool, my personal favorite, is a pop smash-hit. Its sound palette is amazing and the mix just sounds so good. The lyrics are also great, putting a dark twist on a love song. The bridge is probably my absolute favorite part of the album.
Grudges talks about rekindling a friendship with Zac and getting over grudges from the past and Caught in the Middle probably one of the strongest choruses on the record that I can only describe as a blend of reggae angst.
The energy on Idle Worship from the first beat easily makes it one of my favorite tracks on the record. I hear a little bit of the old Paramore angst shining through in Hayley’s vocals. This song discusses people putting Hayley on a pedestal and how she doesn’t see herself in the same light.
No Friend, previously titled Idle Worship Outro, isn’t a favorite of mine. It features a guest vocal by Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou, but you can barely hear what’s being said. I assume was an artistic choice rather than a poor mix. After looking up the lyrics I’ve started to like the song more as it deals with the band’s history, but I feel like this song didn’t fit the album and it’s almost always skipped over when I listen through.
The album comes to a close with Tell Me How, a soft piano ballad where Hayley talks about not knowing how to feel about ex-bassist Jeremy Davis after his departure from the band. I feel like the softer approach was a good way to close out the record by bringing it back down since it was mostly upbeat throughout.
Overall this is a very solid album from one of my favorite bands and a fresh reimagining of their sound. What do you think about After Laughter? Have you been singing along to it in the car all summer like I have? Let me know!