It was six years ago today. I hurried home from high school, freshman year still in its infancy, and downloaded an album on some shady Russian site. It had been two years since the band’s most recent album. But in a way, it felt as if I had waited my whole life for it.
I spent the first twelve years of my life completely ambivalent towards music. My parents both music geeks, showing me pretty much every genre they liked. Nothing really stuck with me. I would be that kid to fill out an “about me” form in elementary school and leave “favorite music/band” blank. Or just write in some bullshit answer like “The Chalkzone Band.” By the time I got to middle school, I was well and truly convinced that music just wasn’t for me.
And then I discovered rock.
Apparently the one genre my parents never showed me, once I listened to bands where the singers belted out emotional lyrics over dirty guitars, I was hooked. And some (well… a lot) of those early bands I listened to are rather embarrassing to list now. I was new to the scene, stretching my music muscles for the first time. I gobbled up classic rock, punk, metal, and of course, emo. But even as most of those first bands eventually fell out of favor with me, a handful of these bands remain as important to me as they were then. Through all of my various “phases,” (including but not limited to: punk, hipster, and prog rock) I’ve always come back to two specific bands. Two that were in that first wave of rock bands I stumbled upon in middle school: Paramore, and Green Day.
This post is about Paramore, though Green Day may well deserve one of their own in the future.
That aforementioned album I raced home to buy was paramore’s third. Brand New Eyes.
Listening to this album was as if I was listening to my own thoughts. From the opening notes, I heard exactly what freshman-year me needed to hear. It was an album that was as angry and existential as I was at the time. It was a faerie tale, a confessional, and a beg for forgiveness. For the first time in my short experience with music, I truly connected to something. Before, everything I liked just sounded nice. Now, it was personal. Now, it was beautiful.
And I thought all this before listening to the album’s final song.
The last song on the album is called “All I Wanted.” I mentioned earlier how this album was exactly what I needed to hear, and this song is the one I needed most. It was angry, it was lovesick, it was pessimistic. And then comes this song, which tore down what few mental walls I had left. It was a wakeup call in many ways. I felt as though I should hide my feelings, and then, here I am, listening to the most personal thoughts of a band I admired. From that day on, it was a little bit easier for me to open up to people, just as paramore opened up to me. And the final, frisson-inducing crescendo is an experience I will never forget. And for as long as I write, it is something I will hope to replicate.
What hit me about Brand New Eyes, what stuck with me through the six years of its existence and what I always apply to my own work, is its sincerity and honesty. Singer, songwriter, and all-around badass Hayley Williams confesses many things here that paramore fans could’ve only speculated on prior to release. The rumors of fractures in the group were not exaggerated. (She straight up sings “I can’t believe we almost hung it up” at one point.) And that unfiltered honesty, above everything else, the biting vocals, the angry guitars, was what awed me. After this album, I found more and more songs and albums that I connected with on a personal level. They are all of varying genres and styles, but they all stem from Brand New Eyes. And none of them have impacted me as much as this one, six years old today.
I settle down a twisted up frown disguised as a smile, well
You would’ve never known
I had it all but not what I wanted because hope for me was a place uncharted