ALBUM REVIEW: Hayley Williams – Flowers For Vases / Descansos

Release Date: February 5th 2021
Label: Atlantic Records


In the span of a single year, the prospect of solo material from one Hayley Williams has gone from hypothetical to hyper-realistic. 2020’s ‘Petals For Armor’ was a staggering debut, completely dismantling what critics and fans alike had come to expect from the Paramore frontwoman. It was even one of our DEAD PRESS! AOTY.

Continuing her quest to toy with expectations, Williams has now opted to drop a surprise sophomore effort less than nine full months removed from its predecessor. ‘Flowers For Vases / Descansos’ seems to serve as more of a prequel to ‘Petals…’ rather than a natural continuation.

Sonically, it’s the antithesis of the lush, dynamic art rock/retro alt-pop that adorned her debut, forgoing these frills in favour of delicate, minimal instrumentation made up almost exclusively of acoustic guitar, piano, and sparse moments of percussion. When taking into account the fact that this is also the first project that Williams has recorded solely, performing every single instrument herself in stark contrast to the vast array of excellent musicians previously utilised, an intimate pattern begins to emerge that imbues the material with a fragile hypnotism.

Where last summer’s hit single ‘Cinnamon’ featured the defiant bridge “I’m not lonely, baby, I am free”, the first line of heart-imploding opener, ‘First Thing To Go’, instantly illustrates how much of a far cry this material is from her debut. ‘My Limb’ is bold and graphic in its depiction of letting oneself bleed out under the illusion that another human being is a living appendage of ours in which we need to survive, while the caustic hook is mesmerising.

Many cuts here are much briefer and operate as musical musings more than fully fledged songs, with ‘Over Those Hills’ and ‘Good Grief’ both feeling particularly intimate as if eavesdropping on the most personal of discussions. ‘No Use I Just Do’, however, one of the album’s shortest tracks, is an ethereal, haunting affair bolstered by the claustrophobic production of Daniel James, who truly brings Williams‘ Tennessee home to life, like a silent monolith bearing witness to all her intrinsic sadness.

Where ‘Petals For Armor’ touched on independence and self-love with odes to friends, her dog, and a reinforced message of perseverance, ‘Flowers For Vases / Descansos’ is as a much darker, more vulnerable affair. Baring all about her divorce, and the subsequent, conjured feelings of loneliness, isolation, and bewilderment, makes for a delicate, profound experience, while also operating as an enlightening companion piece/extension to this sonic, floral tapestry which Hayley Williams continues to weave.