Album Review: Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor

Hayley Williams has kept a low profile in the last few years but it’s clear that Petals for Armor has been a project that has been brewing in her mind for quite some time. It’s a record that displays her introspection and quickly unfolds all the trials and tribulations she has had to overcome over the years. From her experience with depression to the ending of her marriage, we see Williams a warrior that isn’t afraid to be her most authentic self when it comes to the challenges she has faced in her life.

Listening to this album, you can sense of fragility that comes with Williams’ voice. You feel she’s been through a lot when you first listen to “Simmer”; a track that describes her bottled anger towards the past and how this has been “simmering” over the years – like a pot ready to overflow with boiling water symbolising internal rage. The song is far from quiet and elevates quickly, giving her the opportunity to outline the complexities of her emotions.

From anxiety to fear, towards the end you see her find peace in what was and that the petals of her femininity has given her strength in times of disillusionment. She’s hesitant in moving forward but finds the courage to take the first steps towards healing. You feel that in Part I of the record where emotions are heightened, especially when it comes to her lustful desires of romantic connection in “Sudden Desire” or the grief she feels in “Leave It Alone”.

Part II is a self-reflection on Williams’ past struggles and you’ll find the rawness that has her coming out of her shell. This section of the record is upbeat but authentic to Williams’ story of struggle. We see her be brutally honest in “Dead Horse”, touching on themes of betrayal and the battle she’s faced in staying in a relationship she knew deep down had run its course. One of the purest tracks in Part II is “Why We Ever” and it’s a gorgeous ballad that is a reflection of her past; an apology letter to someone she cares for deeply and her way of being accountable for her own actions.

Finally, Part III is an awakening in Williams and it reveals that she’s taking the steps (slowly but surely) towards putting her heart on the line again for someone who she thinks is worth the risk. “Pure Love” is an honest letter to herself that the only way she’s ever going to find love again is to be vulnerable. The song feels light with its groovy pop rhythm but outlines her thoughts quite clearly when it comes to love.

The closing track “Crystal Clear” details Williams no longer holding onto the past and is finally getting on with her life. The person she is taking a chance on has her not wanting “to give in to the fear” and hoping that this time she can look forward to a lifetime of happiness with her new love, which in itself makes for a brilliant closer since it emphasises her journey in knowing that she needs to let go of whatever happened in the past to make room for something better.

Listening to Petals for Armor will have you appreciate Williams’ approach to vulnerability and her journey of healing when it comes to matters of love and being more kind to herself. It’s a gentle yet powerful record that is reflective of her past but also is a source of encouragement for her to seek better days. Her petals have grown into so much more than a shield – it’s a garden of courage and hope for those following a similar path.

Rating: ★★★★

Petals For Armor is out now through Atlantic Records

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