On Feb. 5, Hayley Williams yet again blessed the world with another album, FLOWERS for VASES / descansos, an unannounced successor to her previous — and debut of her solo career — album Petals for Armor. Her deviation into an intimate, folk-sound is remarkably appropriate for the uncertainty of the world we live in right now.
Williams’ first solo album, Petals for Armor (2020), was certainly long-awaited, having been the first of her work since After Laughter (2017) in Paramore. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, it suffered from a rather underwhelming release, aborting promises of a supporting tour. Williams has displayed her electric, ardent stage presence with her associated band, Paramore, and with this being her first solo work, the sudden halt of any touring plans was undoubtedly disheartening.
On Twitter, she answers inquiring fans on the creation of FLOWERS for VASES / descansos, candidly admitting that “[she] really thought that [her first album] would be it for [her] ‘solo career’ but quarantine makes people do crazy things.” Her latest album is enchanting all the same — a quarantine–born project capturing quarantine emotions.
The sound of the album itself is very distinct from her previous work. It does not try to seem particularly polished and instead embraces this raw, coarse sound. In fact, in some of her songs, there are little playful interludes where it sounds like she is rehearsing (she likely is) but chooses to include these mellow moments to avoid shying away from this experimental imperfectness.
For example, in “Over Those Hills,” there’s a small interlude in the beginning of the song where Williams plays her guitar with no other accompaniment, giving the perception of a lonely, yet intimate performance. Although brief, the guitar is stringy and she messes up near the end, having to start over. In the beginning of “HYD,” we hear her soft, warm vocals until a plane flies over and drowns out everything with its buzzing; exasperated, she curses at the plane but laughs it off.
Thus, this unsophistication becomes part of the forefront for FLOWERS for VASES / descansos. Having been recorded entirely in her Nashville home, prone to its creaks — and apparently planes flying overhead — it noticeably feels much less produced.
Her charismatic and incredibly versatile voice was always a focus with Paramore and is again on her first solo album, but the appearance of only a couple instruments (guitar, piano, and drums sparingly) in this album prioritizes it even further. She independently writes, sings, and plays all of the aforementioned instruments, and it has the marked impression of a homemade project — an impressive one all the same.
An interesting thing to note is that though both of her solo albums — FLOWERS for VASES / descansos and Petals for Armor — detail an intense breakup, the former album navigates the journey in a defiant, self–assured way.
FLOWERS for VASES / descansos chronicles the same relationship, yet describes the intense grief and somber recollection that expectedly follows the end of a failed marriage. No doubt, it is interbred with a quarantine–bred turmoil.
The actual structure of the album breaks it down into 14 songs, a total of about 42 minutes. There’s a common theme of repetition, likely alluding to the album’s melancholy nature as well as a result of the album’s general slowness.
Personally, my favorite tracks were “KYRH” (an abbreviation for “Keep You Right Here”) and “Find Me Here.” “KYRH” serves somewhat as a border between the two halves of the album, where Williams metaphorically draws a line for her lost relationship to manage her own emotions — keeping him at a certain distance.
“Find Me Here” employs a soft acoustic fingerpicking along with Williams’ soft voice. She delicately accepts the loss of her relationship singing at the very beginning, “No one can hold your hand / Now through the delicate darkness you go,” knowing that she can only preserve this relationship through her bittersweet memories.
Overall, Hayley Williams masterfully paints a sincere picture of loss through her second album FLOWERS for VASES / descansos. Though known for her powerful vocals, she is able to repurpose her voice to be warm, and still captivating. Williams reminds the world that to feel loneliness and sorrow is okay, especially now.