In 2005, Paramore released their debut album, All We Know Is Falling. It wasn’t necessarily the greatest debut the world has ever seen, but it did at least have potential. Over the course of their subsequent albums, Paramore realized that potential and then some. Now over 15 years into their recording career, they’ve come a long, long way from their inauspicious start, winning Grammy awards, Top Ten hits, and critical acclaim. Here’s how we rank all the Paramore albums from worst to best.
6. All We Know Is Falling
Some bands never manage to top their first album. Paramore isn’t that kind of band. All We Know Is Falling isn’t offensive, but as soundbitereviews.com notes, there’s plenty of reminders of just how young and inexperienced the band were at the time of its release. Songs like All We Know, My Heart, and Emergency show an immense amount of potential, but others (Never Let This Go and Whoa, in particular) sound like they were written by kids, for kids. Considering lead singer Hayley Williams was only sixteen and drummer Zac Farro was only fourteen at the time, the immaturity is entirely understandable – if not completely listenable. To add to the album’s woes, bassist Jeremy Davis left (for the first but not the last time) in the middle of making the album – having a band member up and leave during recording rarely spells good things for an album, and it certainly doesn’t here. Yet for all its issues, the gritty, emo-inflected style and sheer enthusiasm of the band make it hard to write the album off completely. It may pale in comparison to their later efforts, but every band needs to start somewhere, and some have started at much worse places than this. Released on July 26, 2005, the album failed to make it onto the Billboard 200 but did manage to reach No. 30 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Chart. It enjoyed a better reception in the UK, peaking at No. 51 on the Albums Chart and No.4 on the Rock Chart.
5. The Final Riot!
As returnofrock.com notes, it’s rare for a band to sound better live than on a studio recording, but on The Final Riot! Paramore comes close. Recorded at the Congress Theater in Chicago during The Final Riot! Summer Tour, it showcases some spectacular vocals from Hayley Williams and an incredibly tight performance from the rest of the band. The song list is excellent, featuring a good helping of the choicest cuts from Riot!. Released on November 25, 2008, it peaked at No. 22 on the US Billboard Rock Albums chart and No. 18 on the UK Rock Chart.
If there’s one good thing about a disappointing debut, it’s that the pressure is off for its follow-up. Fortunately, Riot! was a major step forward for the band, who sound altogether tighter, more focussed, and more mature than they do on its predecessor. Musically, it’s more adventurous: the sound they’d cultivated on All We Know Is Falling is still there, but there’s enough diversity to give it crossover potential, with some critics comparing its pop-rock sensibilities to those of Kelly Clarkson and Avril Lavigne. Not everyone loved it (Gareth Dobson at Drowned in Sound was one of the most scathing critics, calling it “one long, sugar-infused bleat”) but plenty did, with Stylus Magazine describing it as “irrepressible power pop” and naming it to their 50 albums of 2007 list. Ultimately, it isn’t an album that’s going to be remembered by many as the band’s best. However, the huge advance it made on their debut showed that Paramore were a band that could grow and improve, something they’ve continued to do on almost each subsequent release. Released on June 12, 2007, it peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard 200 and has since achieved triple platinum status in the US.
As What Culture says, after the departure of the Farro brothers in 2010, Paramore’s future was cast into doubt. When Hayley Williams started making multiple guest appearances on other artists’ albums, a lot of fans thought the band’s days were over. But then, in 2013, they made a defiant return with Paramore. Artistically, they’d never sounded more adventurous, dabbling with everything from bubblegum pop to new wave and funk. When the experiments hit their mark (as they do on tracks like Fast In My Car, Anklebiters, Proof, and Future), they work brilliantly. The problem is, at 17 tracks long, the ideas run out before the album does. There’s plenty of thrills, but far too much filler in between. With more judicious editing, it could easily have ranked as one of their most accomplished efforts. As it is, it falls just a little short. For all that, it became the band’s most successful album till that point, earning them a No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 and topping the charts in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. It also earned them their first Grammy for the single Ain’t It Fun.
2. After Laughter
After a four-year hiatus, Paramore returned in 2017 with After Laughter. Sonically, it’s a world away from their punky roots, with the band diving headfirst into the synth-pop sounds and new wave vibes they’d begun embracing on 2013’s Paramore. Although the change in direction may have left some fans longing for the emo sounds of their earlier days, most listeners welcomed the shift, especially on highlights such as Hard Times, Fake Happy, and Grudges. All in all, it’s a remarkably focused, cohesive album that fully deserved the warm reception it received on its release. Released on May 12, 2017, it became their third Top Ten album in the US, charting at No. 6 on the Billboard 200.
1. Brand New Eyes
By 2008, Paramore were in trouble. A year of nonstop touring had left them experiencing “internal issues,” canceling shows, and struggling to come up with new material. The problems led to speculation that Riot! would prove to be the band’s swansong. But then, in 2009, they released Brand New Eyes, an album that silenced their critics for good and proved once and for all that a little tension never does a band any harm. Hailed as their most mature project to date, the album was a smash hit, winning a slew of accolades (including a Grammy nomination for the single The Only Exception and a Kerrang! Award for Best Album) and charting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 – their highest charting position until 2013’s Paramore. It also topped the charts in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.