Friday, January 31st, 2020

Hayley Williams – Simmer

Just disappointing we couldn’t go with “Simmer of [6.90]”…


Tobi Tella: Ominous and guttural, the quietness and control in the production and performance compared to the pure fury of the lyrics makes it even more potent.

Alex Clifton: There’s so much to be angry about these days: structural inequality, climate change, the rise of fascism, the continued existence of billionaires without limits while too many people have to scrape by… the list could go on, but I’m sure you feel just as weary as I do. I’m still learning how to deal with anger in general, particularly because I tend to bottle every emotion in my body until it explodes out, usually with horrifying intensity. There’s a trick to learning how to be angry but using the anger in a productive manner, letting it fuel your movement forward through definitive action. Otherwise, you get lost and swept away in the anger until there’s nothing left but pure incandescent rage. Women in particular are taught to “simmer down” and mask their anger, although over the past four years we’ve thankfully seen a definite increase in the number of vocal and angry women on the world’s stage. I’m glad we have more women speaking up now, but at the same time I do think there’s a balancing act involved that few have perfected, in part because we’ve rarely had the opportunity to do so publicly. “Simmer” explores this push and pull, the desire to “give in” while ensuring that the anger doesn’t take hold of you so there’s nothing left. The production on this is great, making Williams’ vocals sound as if they’re delivered through gritted teeth (con–trol–) and the atmospheric breathing signals trying to calm the fuck down. The more I listen to “Simmer,” the more it keeps opening itself up, much like the depths of anger. However, this is far more smartly channelled than a pure rant on how things suck — it’s a meditation on all aspects of the feeling. I’ll be thinking about this one for a while.

Alfred Soto: With Taylor York producing, “Simmer” could’ve emerged under the Paramore moniker: a Bold New Direction, etc. And like the frequent best by the band, it’s modest and catchy but also retrograde: here, like Radiohead and Burial circa 2007. Against this spare electronic backdrop Hayley Williams’ boldness turns into stridency on the first two listens, perhaps with the effort to make lines like “how to draw the line between wrath and mercy” sing. It will do. 

Brad Shoup: Give in, she sings. But she doesn’t: not to the sensual abstraction of middle-aged Radiohead, not to the wrath that’s actually quite a thick line away from mercy, if you think about it. “Simmer” does what it says on the tin: no lids are blown.

Katie Gill: There is some QUALITY text painting going on in the chorus which I, as a sucker for text painting, appreciate. I’m a little less certain about the conceit of the song itself. It sounds remarkably un-Paramore, which is good for helping Williams establish an identity as a solo artist. But it also sounds like it’s trying to hop on a trend that’s been going on for the past few months. I suspect I won’t be the only person to mention Billie Eilish in my review but dang, we really do live in a post-Eilish world now.

Will Rivitz: Anything that sounds like a cross between How To Destroy Angels and Lane 8 will manipulate my serotonin receptors better than any SSRI I could imagine. The poise of the verses’ bass groove, the choruses’ guitar stabs, and the pauses Williams takes which rip tablecloth upon tablecloth off while maintaining the perfect order of the cutlery atop them make me feel even better. This song makes me float.

Maxwell Cavaseno: Pros: Williams’ ever-increasing infatuation with excessively active percussion got away from ho-hum ’80s pastiche and is now at least in late-’00s/early-’10s glitchy art rock. Cons: Somehow that means we get to hear the midway point of Feist and Thom Yorke which, big surprise, just ends up being a tedious version of Phantogram.

Katherine St Asaph: I’m not sure when this happened — normally other artists sound strikingly like Hayley Williams, not the other way around — but Williams’ vocal inflections, her stretching of vowels like taffy and plucking words out of the air carefully, as if with micro-tongs, sound near-identical to Tori Amos. Compare “Smokey Joe” — a spiritual precursor to “Simmer,” in its measured, tiptoeing vocals for lines like “if I kill him, there are complications” — or especially “Curtain Call,” where you could practically paste Tori’s vocal on “protection” into this and vice versa. The arrangement, too, has a certain mutedness in its pitter-patter drums and bass and ghost-wisp vocals that reminds me of Fumbling-era Sarah McLachlan. (So much music does lately, first to mind Ex:Re, and the similarities go so little acknowledged; someday someone will remember for more than one thinkpiece’s time to remember this stuff as an actual vector of influence on a generation of musicians.) The problem you can guess from the title: the song simmers, and nothing past.

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