Review: Petals for Armor — Hayley Williams
In 2020, I didn’t have the energy to write about music at all, even when I really wanted to. As such, I will be posting reviews of my favorite albums of last year — approximately as the anniversary of their release approaches — to allow myself to capture what made me love them so much. Here is the fourth!
The first line sung by Hayley Williams on the single “Simmer” is a visceral one: “rage is a quiet thing.” It is an assured statement, leaving no room for questioning before moving forward with her thoughts; it is also a pretty good indicator of what is to come. Petals for Armor — the singer’s debut solo album — often deals in these palpable emotions, almost exclusively in how they impact both her body and mind, regardless of the presence of other characters. Though the confidence of “Simmer” falters at times throughout the record, Williams’ perseverance is consistently awe-inspiring.
Playing with the phrase “vulnerability as strength” in its title, Petals for Armor is appropriately insular and raw — at least from a lyrical standpoint. On just the first third of the album, “Leave It Alone” deals in suicidal ideation, Williams sings an ode to her home on “Cinnamon,” she’s embarrassed by her “Sudden Desire” for her ex-husband; the second third likens her marriage to beating a “Dead Horse,” and “Why We Ever” finds her ruminating on the souring of a new relationship post-divorce.
Sonically, the album draws from funk, R&B, and electronic influences, but maintains fairly rigid pop and rock song structures for cohesiveness; the Björk-esque “Sugar on the Rim” and “Watch Me While I Bloom” fit surprisingly snuggly with the folky “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris” and “Over Yet,” which sounds like something from Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation. The most outlandish track (and only real dud on the record) is “Creepin’,” a song about a vampiric presence that truly goes nowhere both in its lyrics and production. But all is forgiven on closer “Crystal Clear,” where the singer sheds her previous reluctance to let a lover in and delivers her most cathartic performance on the album. It might have taken Williams fifteen years into her career to release a solo record, but Petals for Armor was more than worth the wait.
Standout tracks: “Cinnamon,” “Sudden Desire,” “Dead Horse,” “Crystal Clear”