Photo by Juneau Daggs

Album Review: FLOWERS for VASES

Shepherdstown, W.Va., – If you are unaware of who Hayley Williams is, you’re about to know her quite well. She is the founding
member of Paramore, alternative pop-rock band from Franklin, Tennessee. As of now, Paramore has released 5 studio albums but have taken a break to focus on solo projects. Williams released the first (and only expected) solo project under her name- “Petals for Armor.” 

Photo courtesy of altpress by Lindsey Byrnes

With “Petals for Armor,” Williams had a clear game plan of her album rollout- she began with releasing a trilogy of songs with music videos and then continued the trilogy plan with three EP’s that made up the entire album. Williams worked with frequent Paramore collaborators on the project like Taylor York and Joey Howard.

The album is one of my top albums of 2020 with my favorite songs being “Dead Horse,” “Watch Me While I Bloom,” and “Crystal Clear.” Once the album was released, Williams announced she was to tour throughout the summer of 2020 with Arlo Parks throughout the US and internationally. As we now know this did not come to fruition (rest in peace to my tickets to finally seeing her perform live at the Filmore Silver Spring.) With this time, though, we were unaware that Williams began another project.

On Friday, February 5th, Williams’s second solo studio album “FLOWER for VASES / descansos” was released. She wrote, played all the instruments, and produced the album entirely by herself from her quarantine home. As fans, we knew something was coming when new art and a clip appeared on Williams’s website and fans began receiving random doll parts in the mail. I haven’t heard anything from the album besides the small clip that was on her website (which I would be surprised if that clip is on the album because it sounded as if it were a demo for “My Limb.”) What follows in this article will be my initial thoughts of all the songs on the album. I’m interested to see how this album follows up “Petals for Armor” and if it is a sister album or a completely new chapter in Williams’s life.

Photo from The Atlantic

1. “First Thing To Go”
Damn, what a way to start. If this song solely represents what the album is going to be like, I am in for quite a treat. The raw guitar and angelic vocals/harmonies Williams layers add so much to the heartbreaking lyrics of this track. Through this track, Williams could be talking to a multitude of people she’s lost throughout her life who’ve manipulated her. Between lyrics like “heard what I wanted, until I couldn’t,” and “my altar is full of our love’s delusions,” it’s safe to say this is probable to be targeted at her ex-husband Chad Gilbert. “Petals for Armor” was said to have been written by Williams as therapy to get through her divorce and is even symbolically shown on the cover art with the boxes on Williams’s hand covering her old tattoo of his initials. It feels to me, at least based off this song, that this album will be a continuation into Williams’s search for removed individuality without hearing the echoes of her past mistakes.

2. “My Limb”
With this song being the unofficial lead single upon its purposeful leak, I fell in love with it before even hearing the entire thing. Just the line “shy little rabbit, teething on a shotgun” hits hard on its own. The beat of this song gives me big ghost hunting vibes for some reason, which works perfectly as a sister song to “Petals for Armor’s” first single, “Simmer.” The song itself doesn’t overpower itself with lyrics
yet uses the most impactful ones it can- there’s only hearty meat, no fat. 


3. “Asystole”
This song hits hard from the first verse opening of “I don’t live for you; I live for me. If only that were true, if only I could prove that on my own, I’m worthy.” An asystole is an unreversible version of cardiac arrest which makes sense if Williams feels like she’ll be incapacitated by her former lover. The instrumental itself feels reminiscent to a waltz in some ways. Overall, probably my favorite track thus far. The thirty second instrumental at the end helps build a bridge from “Asystole” to the next track “Trigger” by leaving “Asystole” unresolved.t uses the most impactful ones it can- there’s only hearty meat, no fat.

4. “Trigger”

The visual imagery this song creates is immaculate. Williams sounds defeated yet hopeful at the same time on this track. She makes it that she is the one to make the final decision with things even if she isn’t the one in control- “Cause I got the trigger, but you hold the gun.” This track seems to harken to Williams’s past with toxic relationships where the other person held power over her. I think it’s interesting that Williams changes the lyric to “you own the gun” in the final chorus, making it seem like this unseen lover is owning her life moving forward.

5. “Over Those Hills”
This track begins with a raw recording of a guitar riff before becoming polished with Williams sultry vocals. She sings of dreaming of being together looking at the hills while also alluding to needing to take prescriptions in order to maintain these happy thoughts. However, this is a track about a former lover when the third verse hits with “but hurt is half the fun.” The guitar solo after the third verse ads
dimension to the song’s feeling of dreaminess because it doesn’t go too far and pairs nicely with Williams’s vocals when she comes back in.

6. “Good Grief”
This song must be Williams’s grief over her lost relationship to Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory. Between lyrics like “I put all my demons on display to your pretty music” and “play me something, I won’t sing.” Though the track feels more upbeat than the previous tracks, it feels the saddest to me. However, this song may also not be about Chad but her current relationship with Paramore co-partner Taylor York. The lyric “play me something, I won’t sing” alludes to this as York creates the instrumentation that Williams typically goes off to form lyrics and melodies. Though the subject doesn’t matter, Williams sounds sad and hopeful yet again. I haven’t found anywhere what the ending sound is
but to my best guess I would assume home tapes, which would add a personal touch.

7. “Wait On”
This song feels as though Williams is moving on towards independence of self and forgiveness. She alludes to a life of fairytales and perfection that must be moved on from to get to where you want to be in life. “Well, it’s a wonder we keep going without you” is her breaking free to the open sky where she can fly to wherever she likes, similarly to the bird she references. This song must be the sister song of
“Leave It Alone” due to the imagery of the last verse matching the music video of Williams birthing as a bird hybrid from an egg.

8. “KYRH”
This song feels as though it is a midway connector for the first and second half of the album, hence the shortness to it. I think it’s interesting that a song to be used to move forward is singing about “keep you right here.” I love the ambience this song creates but it still feels underbaked to me, which hurts to say. I feel as though this song could’ve been more, but it is still good as a bridge from the first to second half.

9. Inordinary
This song references Williams entire life and career throughout the public eye and alludes to different things. The best reference is of renegades in this song to parallel to her song “Renegade” from Paramore’s “Singles Club” to start over. This song doesn’t really go anywhere but it still is a beautifully sad song to listen to with interesting instrumentation. However, I personally disliked the distorted vocals at the end, though I think that they could be cool for some listeners.

10. HYD
I love the intro to this song with the attempt of the first verse being interrupted by an airplane flying overhead. The instrumentation of this song fits in with the rest of the album in feeling but gives me loving vibes compared to the rest. This song feels as though Williams is writing from the perspective of her mother towards her absentee father (which was referenced in the previous song.) This song deserves the only explicit on the album with how angry, loving, and abandoned the song feels at the same time. As Williams swells and falls singing about the absentee’s addiction, you can feel the pain in her voice. She genuinely wants to know how he’s doing but has also moved on to the point where she doesn’t need the question answered either.

11. No Use I Just Do
Everyone wants a reason to do the things they do, but sometimes there isn’t any reason behind it. She chooses the person this song’s about because she genuinely loves them without any ulterior motive behind it. This song is beautiful and elegant, I just wish it was also longer because it still feels like there’s room for it to grow when it ends.

12. Find Me Here
So, this track is quite interesting to fans of Williams because it had already been released as a bonus to “Petals for Armor.” By that, I mean that Williams released a version of this song with the “Petals for Armor: Self-Serenades” EP that also included acoustic versions of tracks “Simmer” and “Why We Ever.” I feel as though she released this not to bridge the gap between “Petals for Armor” and “FLOWERS for
VASES / descansos” but more so because she wasn’t planning on releasing the follow-up album and wanted this track to see the light of day. This new version of the track is longer and more fleshed out, so I enjoy it even more than the previously released version. This version of the song is more of a standout than the previously released too- it feels brighter to me. In all honesty, this song feels like it was inspired by The Beatles and Fleetwood Mac to me.

13. Descansos
I was not expecting a fully instrumental track from Williams on this album, but I am not disappointed. The track gives me the feeling of if she were to write “Decode” now and mixed some of her personal home movies into the instrumental. When I looked up the definition of the word, states that it means “A cross placed at the site of a violent, unexpected death, in memoriam.”

14. Just A Lover
The instrumental for this song also is interesting- the drum is some points sounds surprisingly wet to me. The song wraps everything in this album together and ramps itself up to a large band performance- one that harkens to the togetherness of Paramore (which Williams has gone on record to say her next album will be with Paramore.) I also wish that this song was longer or a bit more put fleshed out but all in all, I
think it’s a good way to end out the album.

My Ranking: 

  1. Trigger 
  2. Wait On 
  3. HYD 
  4. Over Those Hills 
  5. Good Grief 
  6. Find Me Here 
  7. Asystole 
  8. First Thing to Go 
  9. No Use I Just Do 
  10. My Limb 
  11. Just A Lover 
  12. Inordinary 
  13. descansos 
  14. KYRH 

Final Thoughts: 

To end this out, I just want to say that I genuinely did enjoy this album a lot. However, I don’t feel that I like this album more than Williams’s previous solo work on “Petals for Armor.” There definitely are standout tracks on this record like “Trigger,” “Wait On,” and “HYD” and I do think that this album will continue to grow on me as I continue to listen to it. I love Hayley Williams a lot and she is one of the top influences on my own musical style so to see her create something this beautiful and heart-wrenching on her own is amazing.  

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