Hayley Williams, the lead singer of the pop-punk band Paramore, thrilled fans with the release on May 8 of her full-length solo album, “Petals for Armor.”
The album is split into three sections, each consisting of five songs. The first two are the EPs she released earlier in the year, while the last five songs are entirely new.
Musically, the album somewhat resembles Paramore’s most recent album, “After Laughter,” with its pop themes, clean instrumentation, and disco references. It explores darker tones and lyrical themes, and has a more mellow sound complete with carefully composed instruments, allowing Williams to display her versatile musicianship in ways she hasn’t before.
The album starts off strongly in the first set of songs, formerly the “Petals for Armor I” EP. Most of the songs feature softer, more elegant verses with smooth melodic vocals that transition into powerful choruses. Songs like “Simmer” and “Cinnamon” stand out for their bold rhythms and unique sound.
“Simmer” especially appears to be a fan-favorite thus far, with over 12.5 million listens on Spotify as of May 21. The track has a catchy, up-tempo beat with minimalist instrumentation, which establishes the moody yet lively tone of the next few songs. The lyrics discuss giving into a rage that begs to be let out.
After a slow ballad in “Leave it Alone,” the pace picks up again with “Cinnamon,” a dance-worthy track with an infectious beat. It begins with Williams’ vocals backed by drums and several quiet guitar notes for effect — but by the second verse, it begins to build in energy and gains a bass groove.
The track features a wordless vocal riff by Williams that repeats throughout the song, introducing the choruses. After a slow bridge, all the instruments return for a high-tempo finish. After “Cinnamon,” the next two tracks are slower and more emotional.
The second set, consisting of the songs from the “Petals for Armor II” EP, follows a similar structure to the first. The set begins with “Dead Horse,” a funky track with catchy electronic riffs that is perhaps the best on the album.
After “My Friend,” a slower, more emotionally driven song, Williams offers another danceable track with “Over Yet.” By far the most upbeat and energetic song on the album, the song features fast indie-style verses and a chorus that has prominent disco elements. The pace of the album is slowed again with the soothing “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris”, and stays that way for “Why We Ever.”
The last set of songs introduces a consistently happier tone to the album, which remains until the finish. While none of the last five tracks rival “Simmer” or “Dead Horse,” they are all strong songs that certainly earn their spots on playlists in their own right.
All three EPs culminate into an album that represents a venture into new boundaries of music for Williams. The new style may be shocking at first to some listeners more familiar with Paramore’s classic sound, but those willing to give Williams a chance will be rewarded.
Williams’ veteran experience shines through the album’s remarkably balanced pacing. Its instruments are skillfully written, the lyrical content is deep and inspiring, and it is absolutely deserving of a listen.