Sound — 9
If you've heard Paramore before, you WILL notice a substantially different sound here. With the Farro brothers gone, there was bound to be some sort of change. If I recall correctly, Josh Farro wrote most of the band's music, while frontwoman Hayley Williams wrote the lyrics, so the absence of Josh's touch is noticeable. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is largely up to you. Some liked his guitar tone, and some didn't, but the guitars on this album do sound different from previous albums. The drumming isn't quite as noticeable without Zac Farro's distinctive presence, unfortunately. That said, for a fresh start with new songwriting and a familiar-but-revamped sound, Paramore have done a solid job. Stylistically, they jump around a good bit. You'll notice a new feel right off the bat with "Fast In My Car" and "Now", and then there's a shift to a slightly less aggressive tone with "Grow Up". They follow that with a song highly reminiscent of their debut album called "Daydreaming", then there's the vocal and ukulele interludes throughout the album, and songs like "Ain't It Fun" and "Hate To See Your Heart Break" that completely diverge from anything you've ever heard Paramore play before. They finish it up with "Future", a collage of sounds that would have sounded equally as appropriate as a finale on an Anberlin album. They've tried a little of everything with this album, and it's a safe bet that if you like Paramore, you'll love some songs and be bored by others.
Lyrics — 6
Hayley's voice has been a staple of Paramore's music and she doesn't tone it down at all here. You'll get your money's worth. Lyrically, there was nothing wrong with the songs, but if you've kept up with Paramore's recent history, you'll notice a LOT of references to the Farro's departure. While conflict is what makes a good story, it begins to feel like they're involving their fans in the conflict through the music. Had those references been better veiled, the music would have felt more like music and less like a statement or an argument. Of course, that isn't true for all of the songs. While Paramore aren't known for particularly artistic or mature lyrics, there's plenty of their standard fare to go around, so if you find yourself put off by the more accusatory songs, you needn't worry about feeling that way through the WHOLE album.
Overall Impression — 8
Many have stated that they feel the album is too poppy, but that seems unfounded when you look at how diverse it is. Paramore has always been pop-punk, but the pop half of that hasn't taken over their sound any more so here than on their other releases - the Farro brothers weren't some magical tether to non-poppiness. One other thing to note is that the album's strongest point is also its weakest - its diversity. Listeners with eclectic taste will love that Paramore chose to experiment and use a multitude of styles on the album, but those looking for another "All We Know Is Falling", "Riot!" or "Brand New Eyes" will be disappointed. Just don't go into this thinking that it's a traditional Paramore release; change is good, but if that's not the way you feel, prepare for a letdown. All that said, the album holds its own against its peers, and it will quite easily find a home among the rest of Paramore's releases if the fanbase can accept the absence of the Farros.