Friday, March 5th, 2021

Hayley Williams – My Limb

Is “My Limb” class, or was that just hearsay?


John Seroff: Williams’ remarkable Petals for Armor was a highlight-of-the-year debut album, a moody cannonball of conflicting emotions cleverly coalesced into a portrait of the artist in progress and doled out piecework across the bleaker months of 2020. I still haven’t fully digested it and here she is already: back with a whole new LP, teased with “My Limb.” While she was barely in her teens, Hayley started a thus-far fifteen-year run of big, passionate, arena-ready songs with Paramore. Her brief but already impressively productive career as a solo artist suggests an attraction to more introspective fare. “Limb” is a delicate exploration of musical and lyrical obsession, the rubbing of a scar or a probing tongue in the spot where a tooth used to be. Williams presents that dullness of feeling here as the matte of resolve, neither brave nor victimized. “My Limb” never translates as disinterested, succeeding instead as both a melancholy earworm and an evocation of the aimless walk you took around the block on the day when it occurred to you that you missed the moment it was over.

Alfred Soto: On first listen, all hook. On third listen, all hook.

Katie Gill: Do you know that feeling where, if you hear a word long enough, it stops sounding like an actual word and more like a collection of sounds? That’s this. The verses have such potential and promise, intertwining wonderful images with Williams’ almost nonchalant delivery. But then, the song just devolves, becoming this plodding mass of my limb, maylen, mailem, and so on. Not even those wonderful low notes can save this collection of sounds.

Samson Savill de Jong: I’m very conflicted by this song. I don’t know how I feel about it, but it sounds like a song I should be having strong feelings for either way. It’s definitely interesting, and it succeeds in creating a layered soundscape. If you called the lyrics pretentious I couldn’t argue with you, but I think they’re right for the song, and even the repetition of “my limb” is, I think, appropriate. But I think I want it to push itself further. As an example of what I mean, there’s a little electronic note right at the start (when Hayley sings “bleed out”), but that idea isn’t ever expanded on. I think I wanted the song to explode or break down at the end, and it doesn’t really do either, even though it keeps threatening to. This had my attention, but it didn’t really do enough with it.

Frank Falisi: For all the (my) talk of living touch-starved, separated, and segmented, I really haven’t thought a lot about the length of my limbs. Fingers press flesh and feet brush blush out, but maybe it’s the way you can wrap and coil and flex the full flight of a limb, the way you can extend into another body. Intertwined, that’s the verb. My limb, that’s the setting. So: say it again say it again say it again!

Austin Nguyen: An inversion of the raw, snarling, frantic, funeral bell-ringing self-evisceration of “Blood Roses”. Table-scrap prey becomes the bullet to bite (“Chickens get a taste of your meat” : “Shy little rabbit / Teething on a shotgun”), a healing shower washes away into hypovolemic shock (“I’ve shaved every place where you’ve been” : “But I let my body bleed out”), and harpsichord fangs are blurred into guitar gauze. They bleed the same from the violence of love (“Kissing in the crossfire” is alliterative romantic shrapnel, perfectly encased), but Williams’ is injected with phantom anesthetic — haunted, numbed.

Juana Giaimo: The eerie songs of Petals for Armor (“Cinnamon”, “Creeping”) were my least favorites, but in “My Limb”, Hayley Williams makes that eeriness less cringey and, therefore, more relatable. Maybe as a single it just seems a snippet of a song, but in the whole context of her solo career, “My Limb” is a great link between Petals for Armor and Flowers for Vases, thanks especially to her voice, which contains a thoughtful sadness. Nothing shows it better than the way the repetitions of the title in the chorus end in a soft, deep tone. It doesn’t have anger and resentment anymore, just defeat. 

John S. Quinn-Puerta: “My Limb” is the de facto single from FLOWERS for VASES/descansos, Williams’ contribution to the growing list of quarantine-produced solo albums. None of the tracks were released on their own officially, this one instead being purposely leaked. But even this track doesn’t necessarily feel like a single, robbed of its context on the album, itself a step slower and sparser than anything from Williams’ previous album. That’s not a bad thing — just different. “My Limb” dives directly into trauma, with discussions of amputation accompanied by a sound combining the grind of a pick against a steel string, and the precise striking of keyed synth bass, creating an eerie atmosphere that feels halfway between bargaining and acceptance. Though the vocal range is in actuality quite limited, Williams’ voice is modulated on the chorus to make the difference in pitch seem astronomical. Further small additions are layered in: piano, drums, vocal filters, synth strings, culminating in a shaky ending, an uncertainty. Returning to Petals for Armor, it’s interesting when you consider the lead singles as thesis statements. Where “Simmer” was a barn-burner, capturing the heat of rage, “My Limb” instead meditates on the difficulty of grief, something terrifying to confront, but necessary.

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