Both of those songs are marked by a minimal, experimental looseness, as is much of the record. But not all of the music is so patient. The hushed tones are sometimes swapped for great big bursts of kinetic energy. Cinnamon, for example, is packed with yawning howls as Hayley builds a playful ode to the Nashville cottage that she recently moved into by herself. 'I’m not lonely, baby, I am free,' she calls out. Meanwhile, the wonderfully offbeat Dead Horse uses African-styled harmonies inspired by the Lijadu Sisters, the ’70s disco duo. 'Held my breath for a decade,' Hayley sings, in a song that not only skewers her divorce from New Found Glory’s Chad Gilbert but also reveals her shame at the affair that started the relationship in the first place.
As the record unfolds, it begins to let more brightness in. The best of these latter tracks is the string-filled, daydreamy Roses/Lotus/Violet/Iris. It features Boygenius (the supergroup consisting of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus) and uses a garden metaphor in its tender portrait of femininity. Taken and Sugar On The Rim later hint at new romance, but both get slightly overpowered by the thick retro gloss. That’s before the funk-driven Watch Me While I Bloom and cleansing Crystal Clear get things back on track. 'How lucky I feel to be in my body again,' Hayley belts with notable muscle on the former, a reminder of how restrained she’s been for most of the record.
The original plan for Petals For Armor was for it to be released in three parts over several months – a trio of EPs each with five tracks. Part one arrived in February as expected. But before part two was due, most of the world was under quarantine. In response, Hayley slowed down the roll-out even further: the next five songs came out one week at a time. It afforded her the space to retread the ideas and conversations behind each song with her fans through social media with even greater care. Something that she clearly believed was important. It’s a sign of how close to the bone the singer feels she went this time around. In doing so, she’s presented a journey that’s as raw as it is captivating.