I’d like to say FLOWERS for VASES/descansos is the softer side of Hayley Williams, but these songs are the farthest thing from soft. Enmeshed in complicated emotions, every track tugs and pulls at a personal place. These are her feelings and she’s owning them.
Almost every song off the album opens with either a guitar or piano intro, lighting a match for some beautifully constructed musical masterpieces. Hayley wastes no time and opens with a song titled, “First Thing To Go” a unique play on a common phrase, but this time it’s referencing the death of a relationship. Williams softly sings, “the first thing to go was the sound of his voice.” As the song barrels on with dainty acoustics, we realize how raw this album is going to be. This similar sound floods the album on other tracks like “HYD”, “Wait On”, and “Good Grief”.
Songs like “Asystole”, “Over Those Hills”, and “Find Me Here” sound like they could be an old Fleetwood Mac b-side providing layered vocals, pretty picked guitar strings, and intricate lyrics. “As long as I’m lovin you, you’ll never be alone, as long as you keep wanting me around” she croons on “Find Me Here” – a delicate lullaby. Her vocals on this album remain simple and I love Hayley for choosing to go that route. After spending so much of her career pleasing other people with crazy high notes and aggressive vocal work, she’s now able to sit back and harness her naturally alto-voice that sounds so soothing and honest.
While there are a plethora of important themes laced throughout this collection of songs, there is one that reveals itself the most, which is vulnerability. This is the deepest we’ve heard from the pop/rock singer as she details intimate moments through this new singer/songwriter lens. “Inordinary” stands out for this exact reason. We hear Williams describing the day her and her mother picked up everything and moved to Franklin, TN. The song hints at the beginning of her new life including a newfound identity. As the album floats on, she exposes her vulnerability through some powerful statements like: “I got the trigger but you hold the gun”, “love has turned me into many others”, “if only I could prove that on my own, I’m worthy”, “my altar is full of our love’s delusions”, “I take my pills every night and in the morning.” Each lyric feels like it was carefully plucked from a diary and placed ever so delicately in its own spot for Hayley to explore and expand upon.
FLOWERS for VASES/descansos not only proves Hayley’s musical prowess but also that her songwriting skills are the sharpest they’ve ever been.
As Williams’ solo debut album inches closer and closer, the talented singer/songwriter has continued to release more songs for fans to digest. Her latest, titled “Why We Ever” might be my favorite so far.
This melancholy track is a diary entry that feels all too relatable. Although the underlying bass groove of the track is a bit retro and cute, the lyrics prove another all-bearing emotional story. Hayley describes a relationship at its end, but why? Sometimes we don’t really know; “And now I, can’t seem to remember why we ever felt we had to say goodbye.” Apologies crawl into the closing piano-led outro as Hayley anxiously sings, “I just wanna talk about it, sorry for freaking out,” over and over. These words feel significant in so many ways, like they could somehow solve everything but instead, just saying them out loud is a step towards inner freedom. I keep going back to the closing piano melody and find it so beautiful. It flows just slow enough to compliment the lyrics with upper and lower notes to mimic the heartfelt feelings described in the track. It’s pure magic.
As we’ve heard in previously released singles, self-identity is a huge theme in this new chapter of Hayley’s life. Is she happy, mad, sad, hurt, peaceful? It doesn’t matter. Her main goal is honest expression – nothing is off limits on this album.
“Simmer” begins with heavy breathing followed by a large exhale from Hayley Williams; the woman who has spent most of her life with a band of boys singing and performing pop/rock tunes. As a huge Paramore fan since my teenage years, I always thought Hayley would eventually venture into the solo world in order to take full control over what she wants to put out into the world. Did I think it would be in 2020? Absolutely not. I fully expected Ms. Williams to dive into her hair dye brand and take a good couple of years to live her personal life and pop in to complete some Paramore tasks on the side. But “Simmer” is here and has blown me away. It’s not what I expected, but is everything I wanted to hear from Hayley.
The song starts on a strong note with one simple line that seems to hold a lot of weight with the singer; “rage is a quiet thing”. In regards to the dark, angry tone of the track, Hayley told BBC Radio 1, “I have a lot of anger. I feel angry, like I’ve been through things that make me feel angry, I’ve witnessed things that are so not justified, and I’m angry.” In a way, “Simmer” is incredibly cathartic. It feels like Hayley pieced together journal entries from the past couple of years and created a concept that is relatable and meaningful to so many people. Throughout the rest of the song, one big question creeps to the surface in the chorus; “how to draw the line between wrath and mercy?”, which is such an interesting question to pose as it relates to anger. I’m sure being in the public eye can shift your mindset when it comes to processing anger outwardly for fear of ruining your image or the overall perception of who you are – which is something Hayley probably struggles with. The question itself stands up on its own in a powerful way.
When it comes to the musical DNA of “Simmer”, it has Taylor York written all over it. I’m so happy that Taylor was involved in the making of this song, because he truly knows how to create unique chords and medleys. A steady drum beat, haunting vocals, and a subtle bass line highlight this supercharged dark anthem (think Death Cab for Cutie meets Florence & The Machine). Not only is York a production maestro, but he is trusted by Hayley to bring her words to life sonically. “Simmer” feels like a walk down a dark hallway in the middle of the night. It doesn’t sound like Paramore in the slightest, which is a true testament to Hayley’s artistry and vision to make music she wants to make. Petals for Armor is an incredibly beautiful concept and I can’t wait to see the rest of her musicality come to life.
The album Petals for Armor is set to release on May 8