EP Review | ‘Petals For Armor I’ by Hayley Williams

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Image from Billboard

It’s safe to say that I had expectations going into Williams releasing solo stuff–expectations that were flipped upside-down and dropped down the stairs a few times just to make sure I would be more careful next time. So I was impatiently waiting for the follow-up releases then listening back and trying to connect the story and sound that was coming out.

All to say, I’m excited about this EP and it has blown my mind a little which, honestly, I didn’t think would happen considering I’ve listened to A LOT of Paramore and Williams’ collaborations over the years.

I can’t put into words how amazing it is to hear such interesting and different styles and sounds coming from an artist I respect. But fangirling aside, let’s dig into this EP, shall we?

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Highlights

I’ve already talked about the lead single Simmer when it had first come out so you can read that if you want. However, I will say that this is a song that has grown on me a bit since then. I find myself unable to not sing along at least a little whenever I hear it.

Cinnamon is a song I first heard while watching the music video and I have to say the confusion I felt while watching the video coloured my opinion of the song a bit–that and I heard it on terrible earbuds because I was busy that day. However, with nicer headphones and no visual, I really fell in love with this track. Williams’ vocals are haunting during the bridge and that beat during the chorus is infectious. Like, it always makes me smile, especially since this song serves as a kind of turning point in the EP. There’s swagger to this track that goes against the vulnerability that Williams was channeling for the first couple tracks.

One thing that Williams talks about in an interview with Zane Lowe is that with this album it was partly trying to figure out who she was separate from Paramore and partly realising that as an adult there are different questions and topics she wanted to explore. I think this really comes off in this EP as dark topics get explored and you almost feel like you are experiencing Williams talking her way through these questions she has. It makes the album mesmerizing and intimate in a way I wasn’t expecting.

Low Points

I think Leave it Alone will continue to be my least favourite song on this EP. I wasn’t a fan of it the first time I heard it and it hasn’t gained any ground on re-listening. In fact, it’s a song I find myself skipping quite a bit. It just feels clunky from the very beginning to me and never really finds its footing. I’m totally fine with that being a feature of the song given the content but it didn’t hit right for me.

I’m a sucker for complex lyrics and poetry through music but this isn’t that kind of album. This EP relies more on building up an atmosphere and communicating an emotion through. There’s not anything necessarily bad about that but it does tend to get a little too repetitive at times. That could also be because I’ve been listening to it back-to-back to write this, and rewinding certain parts, so maybe just space out your listening?

Favourite Track: Creepin’

I really love the distortion on Williams vocals when she sings “So why you creepin’ ’round here?” which isn’t the part of this song, or any song, I thought I would enjoy as much as I do. Usually, I avoid songs that have a lot of digital influence on the voice–even if it’s just for artistic reasons–but it just fits into the off-centre, dark atmosphere of the song.

It also helps that there’s all these little stutters and false starts in the instruments. Along with the staccato keys.

You had a taste but you don’t want to forget it

Oh, just keep on suckin’ on the memory of him

To me this feels very much like a song about asking yourself why you keep returning to an old memory that perhaps isn’t pleasant or useful. I take this a lot from the part of the pre-chorus I quoted above. There’s a literal meaning to take from it but I think there’s more here. For one, it’s about “creepin'” around in the dark parts of your memory–sucking on a bitter candy when you could just spit it out and move on.

Rating: 4/5

I really feel like this is a reinvention of Williams and an opportunity for her to play with sounds and topics that maybe would get her in trouble if she were to try and do them through Paramore. More than that, it’s also a chance for her to, as she’s stated, discover who she is besides the lead singer of Paramore. Not that she is completely without her band mates on this EP but it does free her from the question of “but is this a Paramore song?” that comes with being in a band with an expected sound for as long as she has.

Pleasantly surprised and oddly content with this release. I was nervous for a few reason when she announced she was releasing solo stuff but mostly I was excited for her to show me what she could do.

She didn’t disappoint.

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