Hayley Williams moved to Franklin, Tennessee, in 2002, to escape from her abusive stepfather. She formed Paramore at the age of 15, joining forces with Josh and Zac Farro, whom she met at a music program for homeschooled students. She met bassist Jeremy Davis when they both played in a funk rock band. Williams is the only Paramore member to play on every record, although rhythm guitarist Taylor York has emerged as Williams’ main collaborator.
As they’ve matured, Paramore have moved closer to my musical interests. I’m not very familiar with the emo scene they emerged from, but their musical scope has broadened, taking on new wave and power pop influences.
I haven’t included Williams’ solo albums on this countdown, but I prefer her 2020 debut Petals for Armor over most of the albums on this list.
Paramore Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best
#6 All We Know is Falling
Paramore were young when they recorded their debut album for Fueled by Ramen – Williams was only 16, while Zac Farro turned 15 shortly before its release. All We Know is Falling missed the Billboard 200 altogether. It’s Paramore’s weakest album, but it’s an impressive effort for a band of youngsters – Williams is already a charismatic vocalist. There are impressive rockers like ‘Emergency’ and ‘Conspiracy’ – the latter features a writing credit from Taylor York, who was already in the band’s orbit. On ‘Franklin’, they break furthest away from emo and punk-pop, with Josh Farro duetting with Williams over a slower tempo.
#5 Brand New Eyes
Paramore built on their success of Riot! with their third album. Like its predecessor, Brand New Day features impressive rock singles like ‘Playing God’ and ‘Ignorance’. Again, the group impress when they’re pushing against the boundaries of punk and emo – the acoustic ‘Misguided Ghosts’ is one of my favourite Paramore songs. Brand New Eyes is the only Paramore album with all five official members in the band – the Farro brothers would both leave in 2010, although Zac would later return.
Paramore’s second album was their commercial breakthrough, cracking the Billboard Top 20 and going triple platinum. Strong singles like ‘Misery Business’ and ‘crushcrushcrush’ introduced the band after their debut slipped under the radar. Although Williams was still a teenager, Riot! is more mature and Paramore were able to take their time with the recording process. ‘We Are Broken’, a piano-based power ballad, is a well-executed change of pace.
#3 This Is Why
Paramore announced their intention to return to their punk roots on their sixth album. This Is Why is certainly more guitar-orientated than Paramore or After Laughter, but it’s more nuanced, with the group updating their sound to match their maturity. The fast-paced singles like ‘This Is Why’ and ”Running Out of Time’ are satisfyingly catchy. The band also showcase their widening music interests in the second half of the record. ‘Figure 8’ incorporates dissonant electronic elements, while Paramore are mellow and dreamy on the closing suite of songs.
Paramore expanded their vision with their fourth album, outgrowing the confines of punk and emo. They took in power pop and new wave influences. With the Farro brothers out of the band, rhythm guitarist Taylor York is Williams’ songwriting collaborator. The band not only survive the loss of Josh Farro, but thrive – songs like ‘Ain’t It Fun’ and ‘Fast In My Car’ benefit from a lighter touch. Paramore outstays its welcome, running for more than an hour, but it’s a successful rebirth for the band.
#1 After Laughter
Paramore leaned into 1980s pop on their fifth album. Zac Farro rejoined the band, making it a trio with Williams and York. The bright music contrasts with the downer lyrics – Williams briefly left the band in 2015 during a battle with depression, while she divorced in the same year After Laughter was released. Lead-off track ‘Hard Times’ encapsulates the album as a whole – York’s marimba drives an upbeat arrangement, while Williams sings “I gotta get to rock bottom”. The subdued closer ‘Tell Me How’ is the only time when the dourness of the arrangement matches the music. My favourite Paramore track is ‘Pool’, with Williams’ voice sounding gorgeous on the high notes.
Did I underrate your favourite Paramore album?
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