Review: Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor

We have been blessed. We have been given a gift. The entirety of Petals for Armor is here for us to enjoy and drink in, and I am beside myself with how incredible it is. I wrote about the first third of the album earlier this year, and I didn’t know how the rest of the album would play out based on it, but it completely surpassed anything I expected and hoped for. It’s experimental, it’s exciting, it’s fresh. It’s Hayley.

You can buy or stream Petals for Armor on Apple Music.

I spoke a lot in my first piece about the femininity I loved about the project. That concept is woven through the rest of the album in shows of vulnerability, strength, and the journey Hayley took to find peace after so many years. The album was split into three parts purposefully, but ended up coinciding with the changing seasons both literally and metaphorically. The first part of the album made me so upset for Hayley and the turmoil she faced, but by the end of Part III, it’s evident that it’s in the past. So much of womanhood is putting up a front for others and always being available and subservient, but Hayley has managed to find a balance here, specifically showcased in “Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris”. It’s uplifting and inspiring.

The middle of the album (Part II, technically) ended up being my favorite. I identified heavily with this transition period she found herself in. She’s over the rage from Simmer” and has moved from the past. I feel like so much of human life is spent in that transition period. We go from the naivety of infancy and childhood to the confusion of teenage years to the heaviness of adulthood. As someone who’s still kind of in that teenager-to-adult transition and, quite frankly, moved from the former to the latter rather quickly, the middle of the album, especially “Why We Ever”, hit me harder than the rest. 

The final third of the album is gorgeous. It’s a culmination of everything she’s experienced thus far. It’s beautiful to see her at this raw place where she’s honest about where she’s been and how she got past the harder times of her life. She’s been able to begin shedding the parts of her that she’s ashamed of, and ends up bringing us the most hopeful body of music in her career.

The visual interlude she released between the “Simmer” and “Leave It Alone” videos is the album perfectly packaged up. She has been in a cocoon for so long, dealing with the decisions she’s made in her life, and she finally has been able to emerge as something bright and refreshed. Hayley has also done an insane amount of press over this cycle, and that’s not something we should take for granted. She’s more open than ever, and Petals for Armor is an invitation for us to be the same.

5/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Queue It Up: April 13, 2020

It’s been a hot minute since we’ve tossed some singles against the wall to see what stuck with us, but we’re back with three tracks that will hopefully add a little flavor into your quarantine soup. 

Twenty One Pilots – “Level of Concern”

First we’ve got a true quarantine track from Ohio’s favorite boys Twenty One Pilots. They released “Level of Concern” as a window of how this is making them feel. The track leans pretty far into their pop side, which is in stark contrast from their last album, the dark and heavy Trench. It’s bouncy and uplifting, and perfect for picking up the mood.

Hayley Williams – “My Friend”

Next up is another new track from Petals for Armor by our queen Hayley Williams (all hail), called “My Friend”. Let me just tell you again that this album is wrecking me by the day. I can’t wait for May 8th y’all. The latest drop is a great song about friendship and how it’s so vital to all aspects of life, but definitely here as a tribute to those who have been helping Hayley through these harder years. It’s another track that seems to be right release date, right time. 

Anchor & Braille – “Dangerous”

Finally, in every sense of the word “finally”, we  have the new single from Anchor & Braille. “Dangerous” is here and it’s blowing me away. It’s the first taste we’re getting of the new A&B album and it’s made me more excited than ever. It’s a soft pop track in the vein of 2016’s Songs for the Late Night Drive Home, and it’s a wonderful track about Stephen Christian and his wife being all in love and all that cute stuff. The album TENSION is set to release on May 22nd, and that’s another clue that May might be the best month of the year. Quarantine might end (fingers crossed) and we’ll have plenty of great tunes to jam to celebrate being free. 

The 1975, Lydia, and Microwave also released singles recently so there’s no excuse to be listening to the same old thing. Let’s stay strong and keep partying in our living rooms.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Hayley Williams – Petals for Armor I

UPDATE: Petals for Armor is here! Check out our review of the full album.

It’s been a hot minute since we’ve heard from Paramore. They signed off on their socials in mid-December after completing the After Laughter album cycle and settled in for some much deserved time off. But it didn’t take long for vocalist Hayley Williams to announce on December 27th via Twitter that she would be releasing “something I’m going to call my own.” Fast forward to now and we have the first half of her’ solo project: Petals for Armor I.

You can buy or stream Petals for Armor I on Apple Music.

For all the talk over the years of how the world would change if Hayley went solo, I don’t think anyone could’ve seen Petals for Armor coming. A mix of the 80’s-influenced sound Paramore adopted in 2017 is here but it doesn’t overtake it. Hayley clearly used After Laughter as a bridge for this next musical chapter to get us used to a lighter pop sound. But make no mistake – this is a Hayley Williams production.  

The EP begins with the first single released on January 22nd, “Simmer”. Should I have written some Queue It Ups about the two main singles we got? Maybe, but I didn’t. “Simmer” is, in a word, scathing. We know a few details on how everything went down with Chad Gilbert and the end of their relationship, and we all know that Chad Gilbert is the definition of a scumbag, but hearing Hayley say that she would protect her children from a man like him is really eye-opening and devastating. And yet, through this anger, she asks how to still have and show mercy.

Through themes of her divorce, family struggles, mortality, and the confusion of beginning a new relationship, we have the underlying vein of femininity in Petals for Armor I. She sings about being at home in “Cinnamon”, my personal favorite track, and how she is unapologetically herself there. As a woman, it’s a refreshing project, like so much of Hayley’s past work.

To hear someone reckon with these feelings in society that tries to tell women to quiet down is both heartbreaking and reassuring. There’s nothing that makes me feel more beautiful than cleaning and decorating my apartment, as cliché as that may be. Pulling a cookbook from my stack to make dinner, dusting the trinkets on my TV stand as I think fondly of the person who gave them to me, or lighting a candle are the things that make me “me.” There’s such a lack of domesticity and hospitality displayed in our society and to hear Hayley highlight that allows me to feel pleasure in simply sitting down to read a book in the home that I’ve created for myself. It may not seem like a big deal to a lot of people but it’s the track that stood out to me the most.

I’m excited for this new chapter for Hayley, because I feel like she has been held down by a lot of things in her career. The second half of Petals for Armor is set to be released on May 8th, unless Ms. Williams has other surprises in store for us.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Podcast: The Rebirth of Hayley Williams

This week, a new EP from Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams titled Petals for Armor is expected to drop. After having time to sit with the first two official solo tracks of her career, Kiel Hauck and Nadia Paiva hop on the podcast to break down their thoughts on “Simmer” and “Leave it Alone”. They also discuss their expectations for the new release, what sonic direction they anticipate Williams taking, and how her growth as an artist over the past 15 years have led us to this moment. Listen in!

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What are your expectations for the new solo music from Hayley Williams? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Most Anticipated Music of 2020: Hayley Williams Introduces Petals for Armor

It’s no secret that the past album cycle for Paramore has been a rollercoaster. Between the highs of re-becoming friends with Zac Farro and the lows of her divorce from Chad Gilbert, Hayley Williams has really been put through the wringer. Like any artist, she’s taken these experiences outside of Paramore and transformed them to release her first official solo project, “Petals for Armor.”

We have only a project title, no single, no album confirmation, but that’s all right with me. We have a release date of ~something~ for January 22, 2020, along with some very cryptic posts on the Petals for Armor Instagram account she made for the occasion. The title for the project seems to refer to an interview Hayley did where she recalls being in a session and envisioning “flowers growing through her”.

As much as I’d love Paramore to continue on until the end of time, I’ve learned as I’ve grown up that it’s more important for artists to be healthy and that the art they create be honest and something they’re proud of. And more than ever, that’s something Hayley Williams deserves.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Reflecting On: Paramore – Brand New Eyes

Oftentimes when I write these 10-year reflections, I’m coming at them as a person who fell in love with them years after their release. We’re finally coming up to some of the anniversaries of albums that have impacted me from the point of their release, and what better album to speak about first than Paramore’s brand new eyes.

You can buy or stream brand new eyes on Apple Music.

This is a deeply personal album for me, but then again, I feel like it’s a personal album for every Paramore fan. Whether the album hit you hard because of your own life or you were devastated at the fate of the band during the period of 2009 to 2011, there’s no question that this is the discography’s most important album. Sure, Riot! brought them international acclaim and made Paramore a household name. But, for me at least, it was brand new eyes that made me a true fan. 

From the beginning of the album, Paramore proved that things were changing in their sphere. In interviews and live performances the band conducted during the album cycle, the band was visibly distant and on their guard. Tracks like “Careful” and “Feeling Sorry” made it clear that there was trouble in paradise. As hard as that was for the band, both personally and professionally, they needed to release brand new eyes. It brought to light the things Paramore had been holding back throughout their career. We wouldn’t have the self-titled album or After Laughter if Hayley hadn’t made everyone in the band face the problems they were clearly having.

In preparation for writing this, I listened to brand new eyes a bunch. It’s totally nostalgic, but there’s still things I’m gleaning from it even now. I realize now that the way I see faith, love, friendship, and quite honestly, conflict resolution has totally been molded by this album. “Playing God” and “Turn It Off” were some of the first songs that kind of burst my perfect religion bubble. With this album, I finally found it okay to raise some questions about myself that I was afraid of acknowledging. I feel like it was kind of the same for Hayley. After releasing brand new eyes, she had let go of the idea that she needed to please everyone. Paramore was always kind of that quasi-Christian rock band, and I feel like they were finally able to drop that label and come into their own. 

Now that the sob story is over, the album also jams incredibly hard. It’s got some of Paramore’s best vocals, lyricism, and music. The band really put their all into it, almost like they kind of sensed it was the end of their first act. It took four years for them to release anything new, and quite honestly, it was so up in the air as to whether they would. Hindsight is 20/20, of course, and we know the happy ending to the brand new eyes story is the fact that everyone was able to reconcile their differences for the most part. I think that’s why I still find it so easy to listen to. I know how it ends. Everyone comes home.

With Zac’s (very good) side project Halfnoise, and Hayley’s (very good) hair dye company, there’s no telling whether we’ll get another Paramore album anytime soon. In the meantime, there’s still things to learn and gain from listening to their past albums. “God knows that the world doesn’t need another band / But what a waste it would’ve been / Can’t believe that we almost hung it up / We’re just getting started”. On this 10-year anniversary of brand new eyes, I’m thankful that they didn’t hang it up.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

A Night with Paramore on the After Laughter Tour

I have a concert bucket list. This may not be a surprise to anyone, but it’s true. Bands like Turnover, Pianos Become the Teeth and Switchfoot all made the cut and have been successfully crossed off. The band at number one? Paramore.

I’ve been unsuccessful in catching a Paramore show ever since I can remember, but I finally made it. I have now seen virtually every band I’ve ever wanted to see except for bands that are no longer active (My Chemical Romance *sigh*) and the new bands I find and become obsessed with (Off Road Minivan). I’m hoping to catch a Death Cab show later this year.

I don’t really know why I had never made it to a Paramore show. They’ve played Boston plenty of times since I’ve gotten into them but I’ve just always missed it. Usually it’s because of other shows or, if I’m being honest, because ticket prices are sky high. Well, June 20th rolled around and my schedule was free and tickets were approximately $35 (which, when Paramore is involved, is basically free). So I drove two-and-a-half hours to Gilford, New Hampshire, with lawn tickets in hand, prepared to have the best night of my life.

Soccer Mommy and Foster the People were the opening bands, but as stated above, the long drive caused me to miss Soccer Mommy and most of Foster The People’s sets. I got my ticket scanned to the sultry bass tones of “Pumped Up Kicks”. While we were waiting for Paramore to start playing, we heard through the pavilion grapevine that they were upgrading tickets for free. Instead of our lawn tickets, we ended up finding seats closer to the stage to watch Hayley and Co.’s set.

Paramore was incredible. Their concert experience is legendary, akin to fellow Fueled By Ramen acts Twenty One Pilots and Panic! at The Disco. Don’t know what that label is doing, but whatever it is, it’s right. Paramore opened with “Grudges” from their latest full length, After Laughter. It set the tone wonderfully and it was almost tear-jerking to hear Zac Farro, prodigal drummer returned home, sing the background vocal, “Why did we wait so long?” to Hayley’s reply of “To stop holding on”.

The setlist was a really great range of old and new tracks. Noticeably missing, per the usual post-2015, were any tracks from their first album All We Know Is Falling. A highlight was a re-imagined version of “crushcrushcrush”. I actually texted Kiel while they were playing it, saying they’d “After Laughter-ed” it. It had less of the punk sound and they added some 80s synths, which brought a cool new feel to what must be, at this point, an overdone track for the band to perform.

The acoustic portion housed another great set of choices. They played their BBC One cover of Drake’s “Passionfruit”, then “Misguided Ghosts” from 2009’s Brand New Eyes, and finished with “26” from the new album. It was, in a word, poignant. A lot of After Laughter’s songs are full of heavy content, and even though they disguised that aspect with energetic music, it was hard to ignore the evident pain Hayley feels when singing “Forgiveness”.

Another interesting choice was the addition of “No Friend”. This was a spoken word track on After Laughter performed by Aaron Weiss of mewithoutYou. Paramore used it as both a jam session and a water break and it was basically epic.

There were several traditions that were kept. One was Zac’s performance of one of his side project songs, which is definitely worth checking out. The other was the choosing of audience members to finish “Misery Business”. These were things I’d only heard about and they were just as wonderful in real time. The band had a three song encore and ended with the lead single from After Laughter, “Hard Times”.

In short, it was the best night of my life. Completely worth the wait, but I left wondering why I hadn’t just gone for it sooner. I can’t wait until they come around again.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Reflecting On: Say Anything – In Defense of the Genre

In many ways, In Defense of the Genre is the absolute time capsule of pop punk in 2007. The sounds spanning the double album run the gamut of what was popular at the time while still managing to be, arguably, the most “Say Anything” record that exists. Guest vocals appear on over half the songs in unique, significant parts. In Defense of the Genre isn’t for everyone, especially on first listen, but it is an opus that celebrates and challenges the genre in every way.

You can buy In Defense of the Genre on iTunes.

After the success of …Is a Real Boy, Max Bemis faced what seemed an impossible task: topping himself. What he produced is a masterpiece of collaboration, experimentation and craft. In Defense of the Genre brought the outward, judgmental venom of “Admit It!!!” and cast it in every direction. To counterbalance this, Bemis also provided uncomfortably reflective and humbling lyrics of himself. The colorful poetry describing drug addiction, psychosis and coming to terms with indiscriminate anger is equal parts enthralling and sickening.

In Defense of the Genre is a dark album that reflects the time of its release. The golden era of the early 2000’s had faded and the few bands that still seemed to have any traction were heavier and brooding. Nearly everyone took a stab at experimentation, and while some succeeded, this era saw a massive drop off of bands that had been big just a couple years prior.

Rather than remake another punk record, Say Anything delved to see how depraved pop punk could be. The entire album is a blur of genre. Techno, dance, ragtime piano, grunge and pop seamlessly traipse between tempo changes that would kill a song by a lesser writer. Somehow, each sound manages to survive a solid coat of production and make a cohesive sound. In Defense of the Genre is as much a masterful dark pop album as it is the sound of madness itself.

The stories about Max Bemis prior to this album are legendary. Wandering the streets before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, mental hospitals, and drug abuse seemed to constantly filter in through the news sites for a while. In his writing, not only did Bemis not shy away from this, the entire album documents the process of finding himself in the midst of madness (“The Church Channel”) and crawling his way out (“Sorry, Dudes. My Bad.”)

While each song attempted something new, some of the true stand outs are the acoustic tracks. “An Insult to the Dead” is one of Say Anything’s most amazing songs. The wrangled guitar, the gentle tambourine and plinking piano, and Max’s voice, accompanied by the faint shout in the background during the chorus, create a haunted effect. More than anything, the heartbreak in Bemis’ voice as he sings, “Oh God, forgive me Moses, Jesus, Allah” is unparalleled.

One true highlight is the use of guest vocals. They’re expertly chosen and provide a snapshot of who was popular. What’s amazing is how many of them are still wildly relevant today. On top of that, their placement in songs reflects the guest’s own personality. Taking Back Sunday’s Adam Lazzara provides the evil voice of paranoia on “Surgically Removing the Tracking Device”. Paramore’s Hayley Williams is the defiant angel on his shoulder in “The Church Channel” that urges him to seek help (“You were forlorn in despair / With your drugs and your hardcore porn / Trust me, those days won’t be mourned”).

Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba provides a haunting melody in the background of “Retarded in Love”. Anthony Green is the voice of alcoholism (“Hangover Song”). Gerard Way appears in the title track, a song attempting to make sense of why musicians write. The song breaks into a momentary country western jamboree as Way sings, “I’ve got an empty wallet and a record cover”, reminding himself that the best art doesn’t guarantee reward.

Max Bemis never hid his adoration of Saves The Day. I remember hearing a rumor about how the band dropped off of a tour with Saves The Day, allegedly due to drug problems. “Sorry, Dudes. My Bad.” seems to address this directly. Max asks his bandmates for help, and swears that evil shouldn’t be in their tour van. Saves The Day’s Chris Conley appears after an interlude of people offering help. Hearing Bemis’ personal hero shout, “If you want it, then come and get it /We’re all with you now”, still gives me chills 10 years later.

In Defense of the Genre is a true artistic endeavor. It was a massive risk taken at the height of Say Anything’s popularity. It’s also the last ‘classic’ Say Anything record. After this, the band’s sound became poppier and Max’s struggles less dire. What should be a hot mess of a record manages to be a cohesive concept album that finds the sound of madness itself. It’s an album that truly deserves to be celebrated on its anniversary, even though it may not be to everyone’s liking.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and is currently fighting the pesky Baratheon hordes! …..Or battling his cat to the death over small flakes of chicken.

Vinyl Spotlight: Paramore – After Laughter

Every so often, our resident vinyl lover, Kiel Hauck, takes the time to talk about a recent vinyl release and gives a breakdown about everything from packaging to sound quality. Here’s his latest installment.

I collect and play vinyl year round, but there’s something about the fall season that just makes records sound better. Thus, it’s no surprise that one of my favorite albums from this spring is quickly becoming an autumn staple on my turntable.

Paramore’s After Laughter was a triumphant return for the band and a perfect pivot to syrupy synthpop. While quickly being lauded as one of 2017’s best albums upon its spring release, fans of the band had to wait to hear the record on vinyl as pre-orders weren’t available until mid-summer. However, just as with the four years between the band’s self-titled and After Laughter, the vinyl release was worth the wait.

Packaging and Presentation

Paramore helped soothe the wait for After Laughter vinyl by offering multiple variants for fans to choose from, including 1,000 records on teal marble, 2,000 on orange and white available only at Urban Outfitters, 4,000 on pink marble, and another 10,000 on black and white marble available at retail stores. Because of its consistency with the album art, I chose the pink variant and was pleasantly surprised by its brightness upon opening the record.

The gatefold packaging features animated artwork of the trio that matches the scattered shapes and colors of the album cover. However, there isn’t much to look at aside from an album art-themed sleeve to hold the record itself. After Laughter certainly stands out from the rest of the band’s catalogue in terms of artwork and matches the sound of the album, but this release could have included a bit more inside.

Sound and Quality

Album art aside, After Laughter is a pleasure to listen to on wax. I was reminded of Chvrches’ 2015 release Every Open Eye with its rich, layered synthesizers and deep bass lines. Both of these pressings are great examples of what can be accomplished on non-180 gram pressings. After Laughter sounds clean and crisp in this format.

I decided to first spin the record with several friends in attendance at our house, all of whom enjoyed the album and noted how smooth the band sounded. Only one track, the Aaron Weiss-led “No Friend”, garnered somewhat negative feedback. Already an odd fit on the album, Weiss’ vocals feel even more buried on this vinyl release, creating a disjointed feel before the album’s somber closing track, “Tell Me How”.

Still, it’s hard to complain about having one of the year’s best albums finally on vinyl. After Laughter is a beautiful, painful and complex listen and is best heard in full, making this a great format for the experience. If you’re interested in snagging a vinyl copy of your own, the black and white marble variant is still available through the band’s website.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Podcast: The Best of Paramore

Last month, Paramore released what may be the best album of their career in After Laughter. This month, their breakthrough album, Riot!, turns 10 years old. Amidst all of the Paramore hubbub, we decided to break down the band’s discography on our latest podcast. Included in the discussion are Kiel and Kyle’s top 10 Paramore songs, thoughts on the bands legacy, and praise for Hayley Williams as a trailblazer in the scene. Listen in!

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What are your favorite Paramore songs? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck