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Hayley Williams - Petals For Armor (Album Review)

Wednesday, 13 May 2020 Written by Matty Pywell

Throughout her life, Hayley Williams has faced challenges, setbacks, and mental health problems. The Paramore vocalist’s debut solo album is as much about those circumstances as it is a compelling diary of learning how to dig out old roots in order to blossom anew. ‘Petals For Armor’ is an act of defiance, channelling a sense of vulnerability that is not a weakness, but a radical form of resistance.

Here you will find a sprawling selection of mood pieces. The album’s tracks can be meditative and soothing, with minimalistic instrumentation leaving the listener firmly in the grasp of Williams’ vocals. It’s a personal, intimate experience, with her hushed tones sketching moments that feel like those shared between close friends.

The most recent Paramore album was a divergence from the band’s prior work, with ‘80s synths and new wave influences providing impetus throughout ‘After Laughter’.

On ‘Petals For Armor’, which was produced alongside her Paramore bandmate Taylor York, Williams has updated that palette further with a raft of modern pop sensibilities, also incorporating aspects of soul, folk and R&B into the milieu.

The rhythm section throughout the album is astounding, and there are countless percussive flurries and basslines that underpin luxuriously soft melodies. The LP’s instrumental textures are delicate and subtle, giving them tantalisingly addictive properties. Quiet, almost microscopic, particles fizzle gently, and the creak of a floorboard gives way to instant curiosity.

There’s an appealing seam of honesty throughout as Williams details the temptation of giving in to rage, a sudden rush of lust, or the acceptance of bad days among the good. Femininity is also a key theme as Williams sings “think of all the wilted women, who crane their necks to reach a window”. 

During her career Williams has helped to inspire many women to start bands of their own, kicking against a male-dominated industry that so often seeks to marginalise their voices. Perhaps appropriately, Boygenius—the alt-rock trio comprising Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus—make an uplifting appearance on Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris, a song that celebrates friendship and personal growth. ‘Petals For Armor’ tells us that, despite the challenges we may encounter, kindness can be the best form of resilience.


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