Release Date: Feb 5, 2021
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams has always been a piano player, but FLOWERS for VASES / descansos showcases her instrumental strengths like never before. The 14-track, surprise-released follow-up to last year's Petals for Armor is performed entirely by Williams and recorded at her Nashville home. Unlike some of her previous work on Petals for Armor or Paramore's After Laughter that juxtapose dismal lyrics with upbeat arrangements, the songs on FLOWERS for VASES don't hide their true meanings behind bubbly pop music.
A song cycle of self-serenades. Sometimes I wish The Discourse didn't exist. Oh, I'm all for the analysis, the unpacking and unfurling of an album's thematic texture, finding the little secret inroads it's left the listener to the heart of itself - all cards on the table, it's one of life's greatest pleasures. But The Discourse isn't that. The Discourse is hungry and demanding and impatient; if you don't have an opinion on the thing right this moment, you're already too late.
On Friday (February 5th) Hayley Williams dropped the sublimely honest, surprise release, 'FLOWERS for VASES / descansos'. In May 2020 she released her EP 'Petals For Armor' - a taster of what her solo work would encounter. Following the theme of delicate vocals, intricate breakups and hallow acoustics; 'FLOWERS for VASES / descansos' exudes all of the above and more in fourteen stunning tracks.
In this context, it's fair to look at FLOWERS For VASES / descansos as a series of afterbirths or the complete severing of phantom limbs attached to what was essentially the biggest emotional purge of trauma that Williams had personified in the release of Petals For Armor. In all honesty, as much as a solo album from the Paramore frontwoman was a shock, we shouldn't be surprised that the story was to continue unfolding. It's simply naïve to think that the frontwoman of a band whose most intricate offerings lie in their b-sides, demos, and live recordings, would rest at simply releasing an album and then considering the matter resolved.
For a career built on fiery catharsis, Hayley Williams' 2020 album Petals for Armor was an anticlimactic solo turn. For Williams, who lives alone in Nashville, the pandemic-enforced seclusion that followed its release led to an agonizing period of stasis and self-reflection. Petals for Armor was meant to be her big breakup record, her ecstatic rebirth as a vibrant and vivacious force for self-liberation; instead, she had to put off tour plans and sit with her final product, realizing discomfitingly that her pain didn't evaporate with the album's release.
The Lowdown: Hayley Williams has never been afraid to use her voice. Since exploding onto the pop-punk scene in 2004 as the frontwoman of Paramore, her name has been synonymous with expansive, acrobatic vocals. She's also not afraid to use her voice in another sense, though -- ask anyone in Nashville and you hear some variation of it: "Hayley Williams is a real one." Since being discovered at just 14 and spending the majority of her life in the spotlight, she's become a confident voice in music, present in conversations around mental health and aligning herself with groups like Teens4Equality.