Gregg’s 2017 Album of the Year

If you felt like there was an overwhelming choice of new releases to listen to in 2017, you would be correct. Blockbuster headliners such as Taylor Swift, Eminem and U2 all released new albums this past year as did some fairly newer stars such as country singer Danielle Bradbery and pop hottie Dua Lipa. On the rap and hip-hop front, Lil Wayne has an album coming out on Christmas Day while Big Sean came out with his latest work last week. Did I listen to every album that came out this year to come to my conclusion? Of course not, that’s not realistic. However, after sifting through twelve months of various radio stations as well as a much more increased use of Pandora than in recent years, we have a winner.

I considered a variety of things for who gets this year’s crown, such as an album that is just a great listen from top to bottom.  Then I looked for something that set itself apart from the pack.  This didn’t necessarily have to be limited to sounding completely different from everything else, but more so sounding different from themselves, if that makes any sense.  Artists grow over time.  A singer or a band’s fourth album may sound quite different from its inaugural release.  This could be due to a number of things like the producer involved or even where the artist or artists are at in their life.  The latter is certainly a major contributor to the music that is written by the time it’s ready for the studio.

It’s a good thing I have an hour drive to work because that affords me a lot of time to get in a lot of music.  For 2017, the best album goes to Paramore’s After Laughter.  The band took a very noticeable turn from their punk-infused past to release what was a top to bottom, 100% pop record.  Everything from the album cover to the music that comprises After Laughter is influenced by the 1980’s.  The opening track and first single released, ‘Hard Times’, whether intentionally or not, references the band’s turbulent internal history (at least in title) but counters any notion of negativity with its upbeat pace and I-just-wanna-dance rhythms.

The second track on the album is my personal favorite and and is one that must be experienced live.  ‘Rose-Colored Boy’ takes those rhythms and elevates them from the moment the “Low key, no pressure, just hang with me and my weather” lyrics kick in.  I always love a song that tells a story, and if you listen closely enough, this isn’t some empty pop song.  In actuality, nothing on this album is empty, express lane or canned emotion.  This album is dripping with personal experience, whether it’s from lead singer Hayley Williams, drummer Zac Farro or guitarist Taylor York.

The heart of the album truly lies in its flagship ballad, ’26’.  The track brings us poignant lyrics of hanging onto what you believe in and the trials and tribulations one can encounter along the way.  Haters, lovers, people you thought were friends, just reality in general.  These are obstacles that Hayley’s voice brings to the listener in gut-check form through the combination of her smooth vocals and stinging words.

I can’t finish this article without talking about the most unconventional track on the record, ‘No Friend’.  Admittedly, ‘No Friend’ did not win me over immediately like ‘Hard Times’ or ‘Idle Worship’ did.  Mentally, I dissected it, paused it, contemplated it, played it again, contemplated it some more, wash, rinse, repeat.  Helmed by mewithoutYou lead singer Aaron Weiss, the beat starts off very repetitively with muffled lyrics that eventually make their way into the song.  At the end of the day, however, it’s not the same beat throughout the song with unintelligible lyrics.  Good God it’s more poetic than anything, and while I wouldn’t care for an entire album of similar material, it finds a brilliant fit on After Laughter right before the album is closed out with ‘Tell Me How’.

Albums don’t happen overnight and I have no idea what the creative process was like for After Laughter.  I just know it is an exceptional assembly of musicians and music (plus it sounds REALLY good live).  As much as I want the next Paramore album to come out ASAP, I’m more than aware that’s not how artists work and therefore is not realistic.  I am curious as to what sound that project will behold when it arrives though.  How a band changes gears from one very definitive style of music to another and does it so successfully is not something that happens often…at all.  Bravo, Paramore.  Bravo.


3 Responses to “Gregg’s 2017 Album of the Year”

  1. Brian White

    I’m a little scared of it, but I will give this a listen to on the way home from work today. You know I used to love Paramore, but when that butterfly cover album came out they were never the same for me. I like their rocking tunes. The singer here did have an incredible voice. I remember that.

  2. Gregg

    You did say you love pop these days so this should be right up your alley.

  3. Brian White

    I’m still listening will continue tomorrow, but not a fan of 26 or Friend 🙂