The results on her debut EP Petals For Armor I are fine, but lackluster.
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.
Toronto band Tallies debut self-titled record manages to create a captivating blend of jangly shoegaze and indie pop.
FFO: The Innocence Mission, Slowdive
With the 2020’s fast approaching, 1990’s nostalgia is more common than ever. Today’s youth (and some younger adults) were born after 2000. To them, 90’s seems as distant as the 80’s did to those of us who were born in the 90’s. With the inevitable romanticizing of the era, many music acts have cropped up looking to capitalize on this, some doing it successfully, others not so much. Toronto band Tallies debut self-titled record manages to do the former, successfully creating a captivating blend of jangly shoegaze and indie pop. It is a sound that would not be out of place on college radio in 1992, but still manages to escape falling into the throwback category by capitalizing on their youthful energy.
A big contributor to this is the voice and energy of frontwoman, Sarah Cogan. Although her voice is set in a different context, it brings to mind the vocal style of dream-pop band The Innocence Mission, Karen Peris. Her voice has a child-like, almost otherworldly quality that brings a dreamy quality to the record. Instrumentally, this record could be compared to many shoegaze bands of the golden-era. In particular, some of the bass lines are reminiscent of Slowdive, and while the instrumentation is not necessarily as dense, it has plenty of pop to it to keep the listener interested the whole time.
I found the back-half of the record to be particularly strong. The song “Beat The Heart” on the second half has one of my favorite hooks, as Cogan sings over a driving beat, “Oh we’re ticking down, ticking down the days / It’s longer than missing, longer than hoping / beat the heart, beat it, we’re beating.” The vague, almost impressionistic quality of the lyrics fits well with ambient soundscape. Elsewhere on the track, Corgan evokes an almost cosmic quality, “the voice that makes us move / glides amongst our melting shoes / we’re illuminated / spaced out, feel the difference / Earth set from the moon / we’re floating.” It places the listener in the stratosphere in a sort of ecstasy in a masterful way that the genre is known for achieving.
This record establishes Tallies as a band to watch out for in the coming years, especially as the soundscape of rock music begins to shift again in the coming decade. It’s an impressive debut in terms of its consistency and lack of filler, as well as pop sensibility. It’s possible that they may be seen as a leader if this sound catches on and begins to take fire (even more than it already has) in the indie scene.