Many bands start young – rock’n’roll is not a profession for the elderly. Such is true for Paramore, which was founded before frontwoman Hayley Williams was even old enough to (legally) drive a car. So when one considers that it’s now nine years later, it makes sense that the most striking thing about Paramore’s new album is that it perfectly captures the sound of a band growing up and, after some struggles, finding itself.

Line after line of the self-titled release, out this week on Fueled By Ramen, tackles the themes of adulthood head-on – and why wouldn’t it? After the last few years the Tennessee-based rockers have been through, the maturity is hard-earned, following the messy departure of the original band members, Zac and Josh Farro in 2010. The first words spoken on the record are literally, “Been through the ringer a couple times/Came out callous and cruel.” Lead single “Now” is up next, which seems to surmise Millenials in one tight chorus: “If there’s a future, we want it now.” What follows is an impressive collection of fighting words for the early twenty-something; one could mentally compile a “20 best lines about growing up from Paramore” list without even blinking an eye. (One more for good measure: “I don’t even know myself at all/I thought I would be happy by now,” from “Last Hope.”)

The personal growth exhibited within the album’s lyrics would mean less if the whole thing were set against the pop-punk punch of Paramore’s past. The guitars on those first three Paramore records just sound youthful, but the new album veers into proper alt-rock territory. There’s still no shortage of fun-sounding songs (ukelele interludes, hello), but there’s some heavy weight here, too, not to mention slight electronic experimentation.

Clearly, there’s a lot here to delve into, so we sat down with the band to discuss it all on tape for an episode of Essentials. On top of that, we tapped music experts — Entertainment Weekly‘s Leah Greenblatt, Rolling Stone‘s Simon‘s own Courtney E. Smith and music writer/Aritzia Music Director Sarah Lewitinn (aka, Ultragrrrl) — to discuss where Paramore’s been and where they’re going.


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