Petals for Armor is Hayley William’s debut solo album, released in May of 2020.
It was released as three EPs with a whopping six singles.
Like a lot of people I grew up with Paramore. I have loved them since 14 years of age. Hayley Williams was a powerhouse, bursting with energy and when the band got together – there was nothing short of magic created in the studio. Hayley has always had this amazing control of the immense power of her vocals and the softness necessary to create balance.
Their posters adorned the walls of my childhood bedroom and I have a big place in my heart for them.
When the singer began released solo singles in early 2020, I was very intrigued. The first song I heard was Simmer with the accompanying music video in late January. On first listen/watch I was honestly a little disturbed. There is an eerie atmosphere in the song, created with the cascading whisper of ‘simmer‘, the range of alto and bass vocals and the ominous lyrics. The music video was equally offset from a conventional music video.
I was really impressed at the experimentation but knew it would take me a few listens to truly digest this new sound.
So how do I feel about the album now?
I bloody love it – I think it has been the strongest album of the year so far. This album has given me every aspect of music that I truly love. The lyrical poetry is smart and witty, delivered with quintessential Hayley William’s vocals but with much more muted tones and a softer journey through her lower register, the instrumentation is technically unique produced so cleanly it’s so beautiful to listen to.
Exploration of the mundane abilities of the voice; humming, whispering, emotive improvisation that builds a tonal accompaniment to drum beat, mimicking a heart beat.
*timestamp 1:50: Hayley’s voice cracks – it’s used as closing component of the chorus.
This songs features the titular phrase ‘Wrap yourself in petals…for armor. A powerful opening to an album that so explicitly dissects a person’s experience with depressions and how to function beyond this.
Leave Me Alone –
Referring to Hayley’s relationship with life, death and grief . Her grandmother was in a care home and she recalls struggling to cope with the fading memory of a loved one.
‘You don’t remember my name sometimes, or that we’re related‘ a literal lyric that says it exactly how it is.
The constant drum drill works to build the feeling of unease, aided by the sloping strings of violin and (potentially) cello.
The song is so achingly honest, I want to give Hayley a hug.
She sing: ‘If you know love, you best prepare to grieve’.
After a quite solemn introduction to the album, this track is an inviting break of funk perspective.
I just love how Hayley even manages to make OooOO’s and AaAaaA’s sound incredible.
Chaotic instrumentation but cohesive at the same time.
Double/triple harmonies which build so boldly.
Who knew the word Cinnamon could work so well in a song. The three syllables are punchy with the grinding bassline, perfected by Joey Howard here.
‘I’m not lonely, I am free’. This lyric is sung in various melodies and becomes the mantra of the song. Hayley could be telling someone else this, or she could be telling herself.
[The music video for this is especially exciting. The video shows Hayley alone in a picturesquely empty house. The walls and mantle place adorned with empty frames – a throwback to artwork on Paramore’s album Brand New Eyes from 2009.
‘On the walls of my hone, there are signs that I’m alone’.]
Brand New Eyes Album
Image Sourced from: https://www.bol.com/nl/p/brand-new-eyes/1000004006870467/?country=BE
Cinnamon Music Video
– Full of ritualistic vocabular;
‘Poor little vampire’; ‘sucking on the memory of him’; ‘I bleed holy water’, ‘I’m a moon in daylight’
– Possibly referring to unwanted memories creeping back into Hayley’s mind.
– Breathy vocals.
– A nostalgic guitar riff, reminiscent of Fleetwood Mac.
This song introduces more techno sounds with a bass-y synth.
Hayley’s iconic Paramore vocals can be heard in the big, bold chorus.
Howard’s funky bass accompanies the song, patiently.
The intro features Hayley leaving a message for someone
‘I was in a depression I was trying to get out of it’.
The track is from the perspective of a scorned woman, reflecting on staying in a relationship for too long. A childlike, lullaby melody is dripped throughout the track.
A deep bass line works it way through the song. The lyrical content is a refreshing positive tone. Hayley shows gratitude for a good friend that has stuck by her.
Funky slap bass breaks down 3/4 of the way through.
The album is in the depth of its catharsis in the writer’s journey of self-reflection.
The instrumentation is slightly off-beat working well with Hayley’s staccato lyrical lines.
The overall vibe in nostalgic to 80s/90s sound.
‘If there’s resistance, it makes you stronger, its not the end’.
So simple yet beautifully constructed.
Lyrical content references nature and flowers, thematic to the album.
‘Wilted women’, ‘forgot my roots’, ‘watch me bloom’ ‘he loves me loves me not’.
Longest song on the album at 5 minutes 21 seconds.
Why We Ever
Sonically nostalgic to the RnB genre in the flowing vocals and riffs and soft synth.
The tracklist is constructed beautifully. The pacing is generous to the listener as well
The final volume of the album opens with another upbeat track featuring lyrics that explore self examination and understanding.
There is a deep nostalgia throughout, especially in the pro chorus where Hayley’s soft backing vocals sing, ‘I want your love, I want your love now’ which gives me 60s Motown vibes.
The bass truly shines on this whole album. I especially love it on this song. There’s something of a specials partnership between the bass and the controlled vocals.
I began to hear Hayley’s soulful vocal riffs on the song Hard Times off the fourth Paramore studio album: Paramore which featured a gospel choir and Hayley breaking in her soulful inspirations into the band’s sonic capabilities.
Sugar on the Rim
Featuring that slappy drum beat a la Right Said Fred, ‘I’m too Sexy’.
I’m really enjoying Hayley’s lower vocal range. It results in beautiful pronunciation with complete and utter control,
Watch Me While I Bloom
This song comes from the gut. Those classic gun wrenching vocals synonymous with stadium shows are displayed here in a funky groove. Again, Hayley uses vocabulary synonymous with nature and flowers.
‘pull up your roots, leave your dirt behind’.
I love this organic theme to explore a personal journey through hardships.
Here Hayley wraps up the album with a definitive statement to her fans and herself,
‘I will give in to the fear’.
The soulful riffing vocals are beautiful executed.
Now I really want to hear a Hayley Williams and Twenty One Pilots collaboration. The lyrical abilities could be complimentary, together with the eclectic use of instruments.