REVIEW: Paramore – Brand New Eyes

paramore-brand-new-eyesArtist: Paramore
Album: Brand New Eyes
Genre: Pop Rock
Label: Fueled By Ramen

Ever since the release of their highly praise album Riot, the pressure surrounding the band to make themselves better has been swelling in leaps and bounds. When that album came out, they were a band on the edge, full of wonder and awe to all those who hadn’t discovered the joys of All We Know is Falling. However, a platinum plaque later, the game has changed and the release of Brand New Eyes isn’t something a handful of fans are telling people about, but a musical force people have been waiting well over a year for and industry reps are putting a lot of faith [and finances] into. The result? Let’s start by saying the pressure may show a bit and cracks may be forming, but it seems, at least for now, the Paramore ship will sail on.

One of the first things i noticed on their last record [Riot] was the unbridled production value and that’s no different from the beginning of Brand New Eyes as Rob Cavallo simply laced the record with deep drum tones and piercing guitar phasing that instantly pops to you with each and every listen. Now, if only the material he mastered could have been executed with the same precision.

Before digging into any more specifics, it should be known this album is the result of the band who worked out problems that nearly broke them up through making the record. This is an album created by a band trying to find peace in the storm of industry turmoil and vocalist Hayley William’s near constant references to being judged, tied up, restrained, etc. are sure to remind you of this point again and again.

Starting things off with, “Careful,” a track which seems to resonate with the intensity of the group’s breakout, “Emergency,” we’re thrust into the world of Paramore with William’s vocals flying all over the place as she belts over a near sonic car crash of instrumentation that’s both heavy and poppy at once until you’re smiling ear to ear with the realization that yes, Paramore are back and no, they haven’t forgotten how to be Paramore [though, as we’ll see, that may be their downfall].

Going seamlessly into the lead single “Ignorance,” we’re met with the band’s first efforts to reach the masses and gain top 40 play once again, but the results are less than extraordinary. The formula of Paramore singles that involve some catchy pre or end hook before/after the chorus that’s all set to the overly simplistic work of accented and palm muted guitars isn’t enough to save this overly wordy track. The main problem seems to be that the chorus seems to happen in three pieces, none of which hold much, if any radiance. However, the group’s other album picks for future singles, “Brick by Boring Brick” and “The Only Exception” gives the record some hope of large scale promotion. “Brick” has the pop rock formula more tightly configured with a enough lyrical depth to please fans, but still carrying enough catchiness to grab the average listener. However, I must say that “The Only Exception,” the group’s acoustic ballad, is a bit of a flat note. William’s whisper like croon works successfully with the by the numbers accompaniment, but there’s something lacking on an emotional level to really pull you in. Think of any love or sad song your friends all connect with that you feel simply sounds pretty, but carries nothing for you. That’s this track, but that dull feeling of “eh” will most likely be carried by more than not. Fans aren’t stupid. If you can say the same thing and play it fast, you should. Don’t slow it down just to get a ballad that tweens can dance too at arm’s length in their middle school gymnasiums. It’s nauseating.

As you dive deeper into Brand New Eyes, it becomes apparent that the drama surrounding the band has lead to a lot of musical maturity as I would even wager the straight sound of the record is it’s most astonishing part. Even tracks where the vocals/lyrics feel a bit weak for the group “[*cough* “Feeling Sorry” *Cough*], the instrumentation is simply awesome. Also, the arrangement of “Misguided Ghosts,” and the nearly epic “All I Wanted” will likely leave casual listeners in shock with the sheer musical depth the group has grown to have. The two guitarists are actually utilized and not just muting while the drums, bass, and any extra accompaniment flourish beautifully in swells of pop genius.

Now I know a record cannot stand on the music alone [unless we’re talking post-rock], but vocalist haley Williams truly let me down throughout the record. Her ability to belt giant choruses is not doubted, nor her ability to write catchy tunes, but something on Brand New Eyes simply has her faulting. For starters, the use of vocal layers is rampant to the point of epidemic status. She has a powerful voice that many people connect with, why make three Haley’s sing a line only one is needed for? For those of you unaware of what I mean, think the verses on the Twilight song, “Decode.” That effect of 9 Haley’s singing everything is all over this record and for the pop rock sound they have, it just doesn’t work out a lot. Also, the writing is all over the place in maturity terms. Tracks like “Turn it Off,” “Looking Up,” and “Where The Lines Overlap” pack a lot of intelligent, pop rock punches, but that’s about where the genius ends. As already mentioned, the album’s corner legs like “Ignorance” and “The Only Exception” find Williams, who generally finds amusing ways to discuss topics with a lot of depth, giving face value lyrics that are forgotten as quickly as they’re heard. The good outweighs the bad, but not by much.

While working their problems out musically was great therapy for Paramore, I think the fans will now be the ones in turmoil after hearing Brand New Eyes. There is an obvious war of sound between the “pop rock, radio ready” tracks and the “growing artists with desire to evolve” tracks and the discourse caused by this often overshadows the album’s bright points. It must be noted though that the overall sound/growth of the group is phenomenal, but once you dig into the record it begins to fall apart as you finds all sorts of weak moments scattered about. That said, I can’t write this off as being anywhere near bad as even when they’re tripping to find balance as a group, Paramore still rocks better than 90% of those trying to do the same.

Score: 7/10

James Shotwell
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2 Responses to “REVIEW: Paramore – Brand New Eyes”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by utgjames. utgjames said: Album Review: Paramore – Brand New Eyes: […]

  2. tyler h says:

    first, its hayley not haley ;)

    second…if its better than 90% of those trying to do the same, why does it only get a 7/10? does the genre itself get docked points for degree of difficulty or something?