Album Audit is a weekly Interns feature, recapping and reviewing the album releases of the week with a cheeky score out of five.
Paramore – After Laughter
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
The standout moment on Paramore‘s last album was Ain’t It Fun, the most soulful and pop-leaning thing they’ve ever done, so on album number five they’ve gone further down that path. After Laughter is the most pop and most miserable record they’ve ever made and strangely, it’s a total triumph. Frontwoman Hayley Williams has plenty of space to breathe, allowing us to hear her enticing vocals more than ever and the instrumentals are buoyant and charismatic.
Paramore grew up as an emo band and while they’ve shed that skin instrumentally, lyrically this is Paramore’s darkest album. “All that I want is to wake up fine, tell me that I’m alright, that I ain’t gonna do,” Williams sings on album opener Hard Times, crafting a glistening pop song out of a depressive state. That’s where the album shines – dancing in the face of darkness. Forgiveness deals with an ill-fated romance over light guitar plucks, Fake Happy carves a triumphant chorus out of misery and Grudges is pristine, ’80s pop that turns a new page. The album ends on a sweeping ballad and a career highlight Tell Me How that digs deep and offers up unfiltered honesty (“Tell me how to feel about you now”). It took 12 years but the band have finally hit their stride and After Laughter is by far their best album to date. 4/5
Harry Styles – Harry Styles
From One Direction’s inception it always felt like we were waiting for Harry Styles’ solo career to begin. He was the Justin Timberlake of the group and appropriately his solo outing was teased like the second coming of the messiah. Styles’ mysterious nature meant that his solo music could’ve sounded like anything and there was something very exciting about that. Then, Sign Of The Times came. The overindulgent first single that offered up vapid lyrics and an instrumental stripped from Queen’s vault.
One Direction always had undertones of ’70s rock but it was disguised with accessible pop melodies. For Styles’ debut, he’s taken the ’70s rock vibe, ditched the pop and dirtied it up a little with references of cocaine and masturbation. Unfortunately that doesn’t save this album from being a painful, middle of the road effort. His vague interviews have suggested that maybe Harry isn’t the charismatic, natural born popstar we’d all hoped and this album confirms that he doesn’t really have a lot to offer in terms of pushing pop forward.
It’s not all bad, the stirring Ever Since New York is inspired and Woman is an ego-heavy, chest puff that proves Styles has some showmanship but the rest of it sounds like the sort of thing you’d hear at a Rolling Stones tribute show at the local RSL. 2/5
J HUS – Common Sense
It may surprise some to know that if you’re a British MC, it doesn’t automatically make you a grime champion. Skepta and Stormzy have done great things for the British rap and grime scene in the past few years but there’s plenty more to British rap music and J HUS proves that. Common Sense, the debut album from the 20 year-old Londoner is not a grime record but it’s a great record. He pulls from US hip-hop (Common Sense), dancehall (Did You See) and jazz (Closed Doors) to make something that’s cohesive but varied.
He’s such a great lyricist and vocalist that he can take on basically any style of music and make it a J HUS song which is Common Sense‘s greatest success. It’s also the reason that you can go from the experimental electronica of Like Your Style to the garage stylings of Plottin without blinking an eye lid. It’s a definite party record but autobiographical cuts like Who You Are show HUS has got an interesting story to tell and that gives the record its strongest moments. 4/5
Nick Murphy – Missing Link EP
Nick Murphy fka. Chet Faker was the biggest name in Australian music after the release of his debut album Built On Glass. He was a soul man working on an electronic bedding and people connected instantly. Missing Link is his bridging project, connecting Faker to Murphy and it’s a haunting, at times demonic listen that feels like it was made for him rather than his fans. The Kaytranada-produced Your Time is impassioned and funky but the rest just feels far too dense. I’m Ready is winding and experimental, Forget About Me is a long, pulsating journey and Weak Education slow-building cut made from weird sounds. There are plenty of ideas here, some good, but ultimately it feels like he’s ostracising most of his fanbase and it’s difficult to truly connect to any song on this EP. 2/5