Petals For Armor, by Hayley Williams
Though she has long been in the public scene as a member of the group Paramore, this album is Hayley Williams’ first solo album, though it contains co-writing and instrument playing from many of her bandmates. Is this album a marked change of departure for Williams given her previous work? Is it likely to receive the sort of popularity to encourage more solo albums like this one? Is it a bold creative statement of creativity and originality that deals with her personal issues? All of these are questions that it would be entirely natural to ask when one is faced with an album like this one. And upon listening to this album I have to say that there is at least the potential for some sort of success here. One of the songs, “Simmer,” managed to hit the top 10 on the rock charts and nearly hit the top 20 on the alternative charts, and that is a fair impression of its appeal. There is a lot to enjoy here, that’s for sure.
As I listened to this in my car over the course of several days I don’t really feel comfortable giving a track-by-track review, but there were at least a few tracks here that managed to stand out. Album opener “Simmer” is definitely a worthwhile track, and a few songs on the album have a similar feel in terms of repeated word choruses and driving instrumentals that lead to a sense of dread or tension–“Sudden Desire,” for example, as well as “Taken,” which seems to relate to a personal story that one might want more details about. There is definitely a split here between calmer songs that seem to wash over the reader and not leave much of an impression that relate to flowers and blooming can be contrasted with songs that have a darker edge to them, both of which end up working in their own way. I don’t see this as an album that is going to win over a lot of new fans to Hayley Williams who weren’t already fans of Paramore, but those who enjoyed After Laughter will find a great deal in this album that continues the artistic evolution she experienced there and that gives hope that the next Paramore album will be an artistic success even if not necessarily a success on the pop charts as the band once was.
Overall, this album can be considered as an example of dance pop mixed with experimental pop. In the contemporary music world, that mixture is enough for this to be considered alternative, and if the album had not been released on a major label, it would likely be considered indie for its general quirkiness. In terms of its structure, Petals For Armor is an hour long, roughly, and is made up of 15 tracks that appeared on 3 EPs. The singer has claimed that some of these songs have a strong interest in femininity and that is certainly visible on “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” and “Watch Me While I Bloom,” while other songs reflect the issues that involve sexuality in relationships, like “Sugar On The Rim,” or “Cinnamon.” If the songs are a bit too repetitive and a bit too obscure to be as heavily enjoyed as the best of Paramore’s work, and if this is a bit of a step down in terms of relatability for me at least from After Laughter, it is clear that Williams is exploring herself and her experiences and her approach to the world and plenty of people may find something to enjoy and relate to as well. This album is worth checking out.