After a painful divorce, the vivacious front woman of acclaimed alternative rock band Paramore is coping with her pain the only way she knows how – through music.
Earlier this year, Hayley had announced that although Paramore music is on the back burner, fans could look forward to new solo music from her in the meantime – and that’s when Petals For Armor was born. After a cinematic trio of concept videos and interludes, the entire first half of the album was dropped spontaneously last week (a very unique way to ease in the listeners, I’d say).
Hayley had explained “there are a lot of themes covered on the album as a whole and I thought it best to separate some of these so that there can be time for everyone to digest some of the songs before we move along to others.” Given how raw and personal these songs are for Hayley, it certainly makes sense that she wants her fans to get to process them deeply – and splitting the album in half does seem like a memorable way to accomplish that. Let’s dive in to these first five songs, shall we?
The opening song for this entire project HAD to be big, of course. And this artist did not disappoint. Embracing the act of healing through grief and an abusive relationship, Hayley runs through a dark forest, completely vulnerable, and then into a house where her inner demons quite literally, come out to play. Sonically, this song begins with scifi-inspired buzzing, and vocal humming that harmonizes with it. It all feels very mechanized and off-putting, especially in comparison to the poppier and smooth Paramore music that fans have been treated to as of late (read: the 2017 release of After Laughter). “Control, there’s so many ways to give in” and “how to draw the line between wrath and mercy” are some of the most powerful lines of this song, layered against moments of airier bass lines and light drums. It’s haunting and dark, but it shares her reality in such a potent way. Watch this surreal video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8lSj5k2K7w0
2. Leave it Alone
Similarly to the way “Simmer” began, this song begins with labored breathing, but quickly mellows into a stripped-down bass bouncing off a simple percussion beat, slowly building with some haunting stringed instruments as she repeats the title in harmonized vocals. A moaning cello punctuates the space in between the chorus and verse 2, which beautifully onomatopoeia-izes the feeling of loss and anxiety after a significant relationship ending. “If you know love / Best prepare to grieve / Let it into your open heart and / Then prepare to let it leave” resonates the strongest with me particularly, as it holds a large dose of cynicism, which is likely relatable for a lot of people. Sometimes the pieces of a person that are gone still leave you missing the good parts of the relationship, but logic and clarity would dictate that you leave it alone, instead of running back into a toxic relationship. The video is wild, and portrays Williams breaking out of a cocoon. Just watch it here for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3WJjuG1yNQ
Easily the most sonically and visually avant-garde of the songs so far, “Cinnamon” is like a sad little dance party when the storm is over and you’re trying to find your new normal and peace amidst the lingering damage. This is likely most evident through the stark transition to ending: “I’m not lonely, I am free.” Sonically, the music becomes a lot more like a Paula Abdul hit as Hayley dances around powerfully in a multicolored fringed costume, celebrating her life, albeit imperfect and messy and weird – just the way it is. This song features some trippy electric guitar effects alongside the odd vocal runs and harmonies. Rhythmically, the drums are deliciously bouncing against the beat, creating a really unique sort of tension amidst the larger piece. Watch this video here – it’s also the third installment of the first two: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4x7jORhJntM
Rain sounds and a mellow guitar start this song alongside clear, crisp vocals. That’s why the zombie-like vocal effect of “Why you creepin’ ’round here” is so shockingly stark. The amalgamation of clear and crisp with the distorted and confused creates some hesitated tensions in this very jazzy tune. A far cry from Paramore’s poppier and pop punk stuff, this song serves to show the incredible versatility of Hayley as not just a vocalist, but an artist. The lyrics “You had a taste but you don’t want to forget it / Oh just keep on suckin’ on the memory of him” shows her internal struggle to move forward after a devastating but necessary divorce.
5. Sudden Desire
“I wanted him to kiss me how / With open mouth, and open mouth / We keep our distance now.” With the change of relationships and the dynamics within them, Hayley looks back on her marriage with painful reminders of what she wanted and has since lost. And my goodness, this chorus hits sonically hard. A buzzing guitar riff fills the soundspace while the vocals wail in desperate agony, which subsides completely for verse two, only to begin again at the second chorus. “Your fingerprints on my skin / a painful reminder” shows off the reality of her lyricism and her skill with words and emotions that transcends paper and ink, leading into the oratory realm.
The full album is slated to be released on May 8th – which simultaneously feels so close and yet so far from these cold and snowy New England February days. But if it’s anything as good as these first five, I’m pretty sure they’ll be worth the wait.
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