Review: Hayley Williams – Petals For Armor II

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Breathtaking

Petals For Armor II is the musical diary of Hayley Williams, as she delves even deeper into her secrets and confesses them for the world to listen and learn.

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In the whirlwind of Twitter announcements and visual work, Hayley Williams serves us the second part of her much-anticipated debut solo album, Petals For Armor. As an artist, Hayley Williams knows how to market her work in such a way that creates an undeniable buzz.

Petals For Armor II is the last EP, or the last taste, of Williams’ solo work before the full body is released next week, 8th May. The opening track ‘Dead Horse’ intoxicates us with the lush funk of a bassline that dances around the breathy voice of Williams, as she creates an underwater feel with her lyrics: “Every morning I wake up / From a dream of you holding me underwater (Was it a dream or a memory?)”

For those who were already fans of her band Paramore, and their 2017 album¬†After Laughter, you may catch onto some lyrical themes that parallel the track ‘Pool’. ‘Pool’ in some way is a love song, but with that Hayley begins to realise that there is darkness within her love: “(I’m underwater) No air in my lungs / (My eyes are open) And I’m giving up / (You are the wave) I could never tame / If I survive, I’ll dive back in.” The water, or pool, is used as a metaphor of the all-encompassing feeling of love she is experiencing. However, in feeling that, she also feels herself slipping deeper into dangerous waters and worrying if her lover will let her drown. ‘Dead Horse’ is its successor, like a matured and fully-realised big sister of ‘Pool’. Whilst ‘Pool’ did not want to let go of a love that was holding her underwater, ‘Dead Horse’ brings us to this present, where that worry now only exists in her dreams and not her reality. As she carries the song on, she bravely confesses that her marriage was born out of an affair and that she ‘deserved’ what was coming as a long line of side women to her unfaithful lover.

From one pivotal relationship to the next, Williams invites us into a loyal friendship. This friendship is written as one which is unshakable and present through all the secrets, decisions and problems they both face, still by one another’s side. The chorus has Williams’ yearning voice dragging her adoration for her friend, as she addresses them as ‘my friend’ repeatedly. Reminiscent of the 1991 buddy road film Thelma & Louise where two women embark on a road trip, fleeing from crime, we are given the vision that Williams and her friend are on the constant ride of life together. Slowing down in pace, the song feels soft and unafraid to linger for a moment longer on the adoration of a person she truly admires.

The middle of the EP provides us with two treats, ‘Over Yet’ and ‘Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris’. ‘Over Yet’ takes the budding pop beat of ‘Dark Horse’ and throws out the past in replacement for motivational lyrics to carry on with the present. Synthpop elements glide us into its chorus, abandoning worries as she tells us to “Get out of your head, yes / Break a sweat / Baby, tell yourself it ain’t over yet.” For someone who has lived through her own shame, mistakes and betrayal, hearing her pull through to lift us up feels all the more meaningful.

‘Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris’ delicately follows and features the supergroup Boygenius consisting of Julien Barker, Phoebe Bridges and Lucy Dacus. The collection of superbly talented women musicians is dreamy as their voices meet and instantly became a fan favourite. A humbly understated yet powerful anthem of discovering and rediscovering one’s self as a woman, we are seen as a garden of flowers growing, blooming and reaching their full potential. This is a beautiful, symbolic piece on the growth of individual femininity as well as how this femininity connects us. Softly accompanied by the backdrop of orchestral elements and muffled drum beats, this is an essential track in learning about Hayley Williams as a person today. This is emblematic of the Petals For Armor project, ultimately.

As the masterful second installment of Petals For Armor comes to a close, Hayley Williams gives us one last piece of her life, in an honest fashion. ‘Why We Ever’ combats Williams’ darkest moments, letting herself have a moment to realise the struggle and resist the urge to go back to old habits of disregard. She speaks of the past, questioning “How do you sound? / What do you look like now?” and attempting to remember what exactly happened to get to this point in her life. Repeating “I can’t seem to remember why”, it is evident that in being on the cusp of a new, healthier phase of life, she is disconnecting from the past which caused her so much pain. We are brought to the lesson that a new chapter cannot begin if the past keeps dragging us back. But, as authentic as Williams always is, the pain that shakes her voice in the song’s outro as she confesses over and over “I just wanna talk about it / Sorry for freaking out” shows that letting go is not an easy process. Instead, someone’s journey to change requires humility and realisation of where they once went wrong in order to get to life and love they deserve.

Petals For Armor II by Hayley Williams is now available via Atlantic Recording Corporation

 

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