The Paramore frontwoman returns with new music – the full album, Petals for Armor, is released 8 May – that appears to be just as much an emotional exorcism as it is an experimental solo project. It is a testament to both Hayley Williams and her producer, long-time Paramore member and friend Taylor York, that ‘Simmer’ and ‘Leave it Alone’ feel both familiar and new at once.
The production is as delicate as Williams’ voice, feeling particularly raw and stripped back when compared to Paramore’s latest synth pop extravaganza, After Laughter, but the singer’s dulcet tones and penchant for cutting poetry, “Now that I finally wanna live, the ones I love are dying”, are delightfully more potent than ever.
The wrath and vulnerability in equal measure in William’s lyrics and vocals, and the accompanying visual narratives, call to mind Beyonce’s Lemonade and Florence’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, though listeners may liken the beguiling ‘Leave it Alone’ to something from Thom Yorke’s discography.
Arguably, William’s biggest thematic and musical influence for ‘Simmer’ is Kate Bush – the persistent drumbeat, vocal distortion, and an exploration of feminine rage, power and beauty are all reminiscent of Bush’s work, most notably her seminal hit ‘Running Up That Hill’, as Williams echoes the interplay between guttural wrath and heart-breaking tenderness that Bush so beautifully encompasses.
However, none of this detracts from the fact that both ‘Simmer’ and ‘Leave it Alone’ are definitively Hayley Williams tracks, refreshingly unique singles in the current landscape of alternative pop. Dealing with grief, rage, depression, identity, heartbreak and much more with beautiful subtlety, this album may not be for the faint of heart. Williams is no longer ‘Fake Happy’ – she is wild, grieving, and unapologetic, embracing her femininity and using it both offensively and defensively – in other words, using petals for armour.
Words by James Nash