A Hayley Williams solo release has been in talks since before the world knew Paramore existed. Her initial recording contract offer was to her as a solo artist, which she famously rejected in favor of being in an alternative rock band. Despite her intentions, Paramore’s career has been plagued by business drama for the last decade, with very ugly splits involving various founding band members who left on the claim that she was not giving them a fair cut of the proceeds and taking too much credit. With all of the conflict, perhaps the biggest surprise of Paramore’s career is that it took until 2020 for Hayley Williams to go solo.
The results on her debut EP Petals For Armor I are fine, but lackluster. The five songs are produced by Taylor York, long-time member of Paramore, which lends some sonic consistency between Armor and Paramore’s most recent album After Laughter. The EP begins with the lead single “Simmer,” which manages to do just that and not much else. Williams shows more vocal restraint than in her previous full-band discography, refraining from her trademark belted choruses. This is not a bad thing; her delivery is unique as always. The production is crisp and glistening, with tight beats and muted synths. It is exciting upon first listen, but does not stick a few moments after.
The real highlight of the EP is “Cinnamon,” which is the most musically abstract song on the track list, featuring the most down-to-earth lyrics. It opens with a jagged, stuttering beat and earie harmonies from Williams that eventually evolve into an irresistible groove around the halfway mark, before devolving into a sparse bridge. Lyrically, the song emphasizes the joys of simple home life with the empowering hook, “I’m not lonely, I am free.” It’s creative, catchy, and oddly comforting.
Petals For Armor I thrives when it manages to hit on the indie-pop grooves and lush textures, which happens quite often. Where it suffers is in lack of personality. Many of these songs sound like they could have been released by a plethora of indie singer-songwriters. Williams’ lyrics and emo-tinged vocals that have been primarily what has kept Paramore fans dedicated to the band long after the mid-00’s emo scene faded, and gained them lasting respect from many of those in the underground, are strangely lacking. Perhaps the inevitable Petals For Armor II will shed more light on Williams vision for the project, which at the moment does not feel fully realized. As a long-time Paramore fan, this is something that is enjoyable and interesting, but lacking the heart that defined Williams’ earlier output.
Score: 6.3 (Solid)
Release Date: Feb. 6th, 2020
Label: Atlantic Records
For more on our rating scale, see https://notasound.org/2018/11/01/our-rating-scale/