First Impressions is a space for me to talk about new albums (or relatively new albums) and give my minimally-edited thoughts after just a few listens. Without the benefit of time and cemented opinions, I can capture my first impressions of the album and its tracks. We might look upon these opinions one day in posterity and laugh or give a quizzical stare, but for now, we will capture the moment in time. The one you can never recreate–hearing an album for the first time.
Paramore’s This Is Why (2023) is a new wave, post-hardcore love letter that invokes the 90s with themes that are universal and timeless. While I appreciate the lyrics because I am someone with a mental illness (or two), I think the relevance of anxiety, depression, insecurities, and self-loathing thoughts will always be relatable.
While I’ve become a bit weary of bands imitating the 80s and 90s in their music, it’s really hard to not be impressed by Paramore’s effortless form as they slip on the sounds of bands that inspired them, like a well-fitted dress. From what I have heard of Paramore, it’s not even much of a departure from their previous releases, as far as genre and sound go.
I was struck by the high-level of production and unique, interesting composition of each song. The personal (seemingly autobiographical) lyrics hit hard and cut deep. Hayley Williams never ceases to impress with her vocal range, both in octave and in style. They’re not trying to be the same Paramore they were even on the last album–much less who they started out as. I respect the growth. So often bands try to experiment and push boundaries just for the sake of creating a new image or sound. Paramore makes it look easy–but more than that, they make it sound good.
Alright, enough of me trying to sound like a professional music reviewer. Here’s some of my track-by track thoughts, as denoted by the large headline below. Just for fun, I’ll name some of my favorite lyrics, too.
1. “This Is Why” – It took me a few listens to actually like this one, even though it’s very likable. I guess I thought the retro thing was kind of overdone by this point. I don’t know why everyone wants to pretend they’re still in the 90s but execution-wise, the song is flawless and the lyrics are going to be relevant until the world ends.
Favorite lyric: “If you have an opinion, maybe you should shove it. Or maybe you could scream it.”
2. “The News” – I’m not a huge fan of how the lyrics are just on-the-nose, straight descriptions. There’s no metaphor or poetic language. It’s just “So I turn on the news…Turn off the news” basically. I feel the sentiment though, and it still makes its point loud and clear. Hayley sounds like she needs to vent and this is cathartic for her.
Favorite lyric: “A war, a war, right behind my eyes; right behind them just like a headache”
3. “Running Out of Time” – My favorite track pretty much as soon as I heard it. Really relatable lyrics about not having enough time to do everything but having good intentions. I love Hayley’s vocal performance a lot. She always kills it, but the lower register voice is doing it for me. This one doesn’t employ metaphor either, but it’s telling a story, so I don’t mind it as much.
Favorite lyric: “There was a fire (metaphorically)! Be there in five (hyperbolically)!”
4. “C’est Comme Ça” – The earworm hook is either really annoying or really good. This kind of reminds me of if Madonna went rock? I like the spoken verses contrasted with the hyper chorus. More great lyrics–it’s hard to pick favorites, but I will because living by my own self-imposed restraints gives my life meaning.
Favorite lyric: “Lucky for me, I run on spite and sweet revenge.” Bonus: “I know that regression is rarely rewarded. I still need a certain degree of disorder.” (I also like to break my own rules and then secretly feel accomplished that I found a loophole in my own rules).
5. “Big Man, Little Dignity” – vibey, cute little song, kinda reminiscent of Smashing Pumpkins or some other similar, post-grunge 90s band gone modern. Yeah, I know that shitty, non-descript, first-draft sentence doesn’t say a ton. But in a way, it kind of says everything, doesn’t it? No? I’m just stalling by writing out a bunch of filler here because I don’t have anything else to say about this song? Wow, you’re astute.
Favorite lyric: “No offense but you got no integrity” (what a fucking burn). Also: “your subscription to redemption has been renewed.”
6. “You First” – This crept up into the top-tier of songs for me. A low S-Tier song easily just for the message and lyrics (though I do enjoy it as a whole song). It’s about the dichotomy of being both good and bad as human beings. How others can think we are great people, but we think we are trash (or, the reverse of that–we can be the villain in someone else’s story, but the victim in our own).
Favorite lyric: “Thought I’d simmer down as I got older; Can’t shake the devil sitting on my shoulder.” Also: “turns out I’m living in a horror film where I’m both the killer and the final girl.”
7. “Figure 8” – The lyrics aren’t as strong or memorable as the rest on the album, but the musical composition and delivery make it stronger. It isn’t one of my favorites, but I appreciate it for what it is, and I do like a lot of things about it.
8. “Liar” – Another one of my favorite vocal performances from Hayley. It’s pretty and soft and slow. It reminds me ever-so-slightly of a Civil Wars song, if they had been more of a pop-punk band. And you know…still a band.
Favorite lyric: “I got too good at fighting chemicals. And dodging arrows I was asking for.”
9. “Crave” – It’s goddamn “Circles” for the alt rock scene. And I am 1000% here for it. It has an innocent, young love story. The music is lighthearted, upbeat and poppy. Almost feels like it wants to veer into Americana or roots sometimes. The Civil Wars would have killed on this track if they had covered it. Man, I really need to make a post about the Civil Wars (RIP).
Favorite lyric: “I romanticize even the worst of times. When all it took to make me cry was being alive.”
10. “Thick Skull” – a little different from the others. Trudges along. It’s melancholy and full of negative self-talk and ponderings. I’m not here to tell this song to love itself more or to be more upbeat like “Crave”. I will accept it as it is. The dissonant, moody, self-indulgently sad track that it is.
Favorite lyric: “Only I know where the bodies are buried; thought by now I’d find ’em just a little less scary.”