Review: Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor

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Hayley Williams' debut album is quietly unapolgetic in its intimate look at the singers personal struggles.

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Hayley Williams, a vocalist known for being the frontwoman of alternative band Paramore, released her debut album Petals for Armor this past week. Deeply personal, self-depreciative and near cynical, it exposes all the inner workings of the singer in a painful, blunt launch of a sure to be successful solo venture.

Williams was only 16 when she created pop-punk band Paramore alongside brothers Josh and Zac Farro. Despite her young age, she easily fell into the role of lead singer and songwriter, with her powerful vocals arguably having a massive contribution to Paramore’s initial success; success that has yet to wane nearly 16 years later. Williams’ uses her impressive four-range to her advantage, solidifying herself as not only one of the leading women in the alternative scene, but across music as a whole.

Despite its creator’s bucketfuls of talent, however, Petals for Armor is not a perfect album. There are many good points to it; the first half of the album, in particular, has some real good tunes, both lyrically and musically. ‘Creepin’’ is a personal favourite of mine, with its funk-esque heavy beat and vampire references (I think I’m just a sucker for vampire metaphors to be honest), and ‘Dark Horse’ is quieting, moving song that stops you in your tracks when you’re listening to it. Lead single ‘Simmer’, despite taking some time to warm up to for me personally, also rocks, alongside ‘Over Yet’, ‘Cinnamon’ and ‘Pure Love’. However, after a while, the tracks do start to sound the same. I love the sound, don’t get me wrong, but I would have loved a bit more variety on the album, especially with Williams’ diverse back catalogue of work. It’s an enjoyable LP, but I feel like I was expecting a little more.

Petals for Armor shows some clear Paramore influences, especially with regards to their most recent album After Laughter, but most definitely stands alone as a project that is solely Williams’. The album is so deeply personal, from the singer telling of her struggles with depression and self doubt in ‘Dead Horse’, to discussions of suicide and fear of losing loved ones in ‘Leave it Alone’, that it feels almost like a diary entry. Williams has said herself that, through making herself vulnerable by speaking of such personal things on her album, she feels as though she is protecting herself; by putting everything out in the open, she makes herself untouchable, giving herself the titular ‘armor’. There’s even a little voice note at the beginning of ‘Dead Horse’, with the singer apologising for the lateness of sending the song to her producer because she was stuck ‘in a depression’, but she’s ‘trying to come out of it now’. It’s like she’s given us a window directly into her mind; a moment of personal reflection, that transcends into the rest of the album as the overall message of hey. I’m not okay at the moment, and this is how and why I’m feeling that way. Lyrically, the album is brilliant.

Petals for Armor is definitely more musically experimental than anything that I’ve seen this year. It has some funk and pop influences, but it jumps from style to different style throughout the whole piece, making it hard to tie it down to just one genre. Synths, guitar, orchestral bridges, piano, you name it, you’ll find it here. Production wise, it was also a very personal project; it was produced by Taylor York, lead guitarist of Paramore, all tracks were written by Williams, and other personnel were derived from her personal circle of friends and colleagues. It all very much gives the impression that this was, and is, a passion piece for the artist.

In this time of uncertainty, the blatant worries seeping through the album feel all the more relevant. Introspective, experimental, unashamed and intimate, it’s an experience to listen to, and enlightening to the issues that all of us face, pop-punk legends and regular fans alike.

Hayley Williams’ Petals For Armor is out now via Atlantic Recording Corporation.

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records editor 2020/21 !! 3rd year film and english student. can be often found arguing about costuming in the avenue cafe or crying into a beefy novel in hartley

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