The Best Albums of 2017, #5











5. Paramore, After Laughter (Fueled By Ramen)

If there’s one album that perfectly reflect the cultural angst that has permeated 2017, especially in America as seen by a concerned but crisis-fatigued outsider, it’s Paramore’s superb, surprisingly mature and world-weary fifth album. The story behind After Laughter was big news upon its release, how their 2013 album (my Album of the Year that year) was their big mainstream breakthrough but left the band in tatters for the umpteenth time. For all the intra-band strife, for all the band members that keep shuffling through the revolving door, however, it’s been clear for a decade now that Paramore has been, and always will be, all about the musical partnership of singer Hayley Williams and guitarist Taylor York. They are the masterminds of this whole project, and this time around their latest album is preoccupied with the fallout from the many stressful moments their professional lives kept serving them. Thing is, while they might have been writing and singing about “Hard Times” in their own personal lives, it uncannily reflects the past year that was, and when seen through that lens After Laughter becomes extraordinary and scarily timely. The way the pastel colours of the artwork and contagious, sunny pop hooks contrast with the very dark and pensive lyrical content is cognitive dissonance epitomized perfectly, and it doesn’t take a sociologist to compare that to America’s boastful stance that it is the paragon of democracy while it knows full well that has willingly started its own self-immolation through 250 years of disastrous and tragic decisions. Paramore has made a perfect album for that mindset: they made music you can dance to, that you can sing along to, all the while making you aware that things are nowhere near as rosy as those hooks, harmonies, beats, and melodies seem to be. There might not be much hope for America, but you can find some consolation, some transcendence in a pop hook, and After Laughter radiates hooks. Just keep smiling through the tears, because things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. “I’m gonna draw my lipstick wider than my mouth,” sings Williams on “Fake Happy”, “And if the lights are low they’ll never see me frown.”