Look up the word ‘rage’ in the dictionary, and it becomes all too clear why it’s the perfect noun to open Hayley Williams’ solo venture. Much like the word itself - the meaning for which can flit between ‘violent uncontrollable anger’ and ‘a vehement desire or passion’ - the first part of her ‘Petals For Armor’ project is a shapeshifting beast. Opener ‘Simmer’ is a track that does so literally, glimmering with a dark sense of fury, while its musicality is like nothing we’ve ever heard Hayley explore before. Punctuated with percussive beats and exaggerated breathing, its slinky and rhythmic refrain is deliciously addictive. ‘Leave It Alone’ - an initially more tender offering - treads a similarly ominous path, complete with stabs of eerie strings, while its lyrics see our narrator grappling with mortality in the most literal of senses.
Final number ‘Sudden Desire’, by contrast, comes packed with crunchy beats, and pulsates with an unapologetic craving and power. That’s what’s so remarkable about these first five tracks: while Hayley’s never exactly been one to put her emotions on the back burner, there’s a sense of rawness to the honesty of ‘Petals For Armor I’ that feels wholly and overwhelmingly human. A perfect storm of menace, anger, hurt and temptation, across the EP she cathartically explores grief (“Now that I finally want to live / The ones I love are dying”), solitude (“I am not lonely / I am free”) and sexuality (“I wanted to him to kiss me hard / With open mouth”), in a sonically shifting fever dream. These five tracks may only mark the beginning of Hayley’s new era, but they’re proving an undeniably potent start.
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Recorded for NPR’s Tiny Desk (Home) concert.