Track-by-Track: Flowers for Vases / Descansos by Hayley Williams (2021)

Hayley Williams, known as the energetic lead singer of Paramore, took the world by storm when she released her debut solo album Petals for Armor. After her North American and European tour was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams got to work and wrote more songs that didn’t quite fit the overall tone of PFA. Written and recorded by Williams herself, Flowers for Vases / Descansos was released in February 2021. A more intimate collection of songs that seem to take her previous message of emotional vulnerability to the next level, her sophomore solo effort is definitely somber in terms of lyrics. To commemorate the album’s first anniversary, let’s take a look back at one of Williams’ best works to date. 

The album opens up with “First Thing to Go” – a sorrowful and gutting opening to the album. Williams seems to be clinging to her past as heard in the gentle yet vivacious lyrics; she cries “First thing to go was the sound of his voice / It echoes still, I’m sure but I can’t hear it.” The song then transitions into the more kitschy-sounding “My Limb,” which was the first “unofficial” single as it was purposely leaked by a fan after Williams hand-delivered a hard copy to them. The track is backed by gloomy instrumentals and the whimsical vocals provided by Williams, which is similar to “Simmer,” the first single off of Petals for Armor

Photo courtesy of Lindsey Byrnes and Atlantic Records 

Asystole,” which is colloquially referred to as flatline, serves as the third track of the album. Riddled with beautiful spanish-guitar riffs and a majestic clamor, Williams finds a way to compare heart failure with a failed relationship. In the next song, “Trigger,” her vulnerability is becoming more visible as she doubts her creative space heard in the lyrics “So what do people sing about once they finally found it?” We then move on to the bittersweet “Over Those Hills,” potentially the best track in terms of narrative and nostalgia. The song starts off low and weary, and then takes a distinct turn to a more glimmering tone with a raspy guitar solo and shows off Williams high-pitch vocal capabilities.

In “Good Grief,” Williams confesses her grieving process and how she dealt with her emotional issues. She cries to the sorrowful guitar strums – “One More Time / Play Me Something / I won’t sing.” The next track “Wait On” is a bit more sonically content, but the lyrics hit just as hard as Williams expresses feelings of lament. We get right back to the more melancholic side of the album with “KRYH,” which stands for “Keep You Right Here” and serves as the transition to the second portion of the album. The delicate piano in the song emphasizes the hurt Williams is experiencing from not being able to move on, and it hurts, oh so much.

Inordinary” is a new perspective that doesn’t involve the pain of dying love, but an autobiography of her upbringing – an explanation of why she is who she is. The song talks about her move to Tennessee from Mississippi after her parents divorce (Started over, Tennessee / Rent was cheap and we were free), how she met her friends (who are now her bandmates in Paramore) and her (now) ex-husband. Following the song is “HYD,” which stands for “How You Doing,” a song that seems to contrast “Why We Ever” from Petals for Armor. She ponders old relationships with her family, lovers and friends through minimal instrumentals that are layered perfectly. 

Photo courtesy of Lindsey Byrnes

The poignant moments of the album just seem to continue with “No Use I Just Do.” She sings about how she can’t control her feelings in the repetitive lyrics. She emphasizes “It’s no use / I just love you” through the simple yet striking piano. It’s followed by “Find Me Here,” a song that we heard when Williams released Petals for Armor: Self-Serenades as an unreleased track. Through her soft vocals, she expresses that she will always be there for the person she loves even through hard times (*wink*). 

The final two songs off the album are the most complacent. We have “Descansos,” which is a gloomy instrumental with beautiful piano rhythm, and what sounds like home videos from Williams’ childhood. We hear Williams’ layered vocals amongst the flicker of a lighter and ends on an open note. The track then transitions to the last song “Just a Lover,” which finally unveils Williams’ powerful vocals we have come to know. The track starts off slow and soothing, and gradually hits a powerful chorus that touches upon how her emotional dread has affected her actions. “Just a Lover” comes to an abrupt end – the end of an era, and on to the next chapter.

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