Hayley Williams gets up close and personal with second album, FLOWERS for VASES / descansos.

2020 saw the release of Petals For Armor, a vulnerable, raw debut album from Paramore’s lead singer, Hayley Williams. Although breaking her promise to never become a solo artist or musically separate from Paramore, the 15-track album was an imperative creation for Williams, born from months of therapy and absent-minded journaling about a multitude of demons she was forced to confront following the end of the band’s 2018 After Laughter tour.

Petals For Armor is a brutally honest album that cuts deep, divulging Williams’ battle with depression, grief and loneliness, whilst decorated with funky bass lines, 80s influenced floor fillers, and up-tempo syncopated rhythms, resulting in a sonically experimental territory we hadn’t seen Williams claim before.

However, endless restrictions and lockdowns due to Coronavirus brought the cancellation of the celebratory Petals For Armor tour, and instead forced Williams into isolation with these uncomfortable feelings, no longer able to distract herself with the adrenaline-fuelled excitement of touring and performing. Williams herself admitted during an interview that she mistakenly thought she’d gotten to the underbelly of her problems, when in reality there was still lots more work to be done, and thus her second solo album, FLOWERS for VASES / descansos was born.  

FLOWERS for VASES / descansos carries over similar themes from its predecessor, detailing her struggles with mental health, feeling the ripple effects of generational trauma, and finding her way through a public divorce. However, it leaves behind the jazzy, new age sounds and instead opts for more stripped instrumentation of guitars, piano, and drums, all of which Williams wrote for and performed herself.

Album producer, Daniel James, wanted to make the album sound so intimate that it felt as though you were in the same room together, and this more subdued, gentle sound definitely contributes to the personal, reflective nature of the album – as if having a long overdue catch-up with an old friend. 

Another stylistic first we’ve seen from this second release is the incorporation of environmental sounds captured from Williams’ own home during the recording process, and from old home videos from her childhood. Not only do these add another personal layer to the album, but James also stated that they wanted the album to sound alive, and these sounds were a crucial component in achieving this.

FLOWERS for VASES / descansos seems to have a consistently conflicting theme of desperately attempting to move on from the past, but feeling unable to escape its suffocating malice.

Latin-sounding track Aysytole expresses this idea stating, ‘I want to forget, but the feeling isn’t something I can let myself let go of, the trouble is the way to stick you any part of me that remains intact’.

Whereas older lyrical material written by Williams tends to predominantly lend itself to metaphor, those found on FLOWERS for VASES / descansos are much more direct and vivid; whether that’s Williams revealing the struggle with her appetite in Good Grief, her dependency on medication in Over Those Hills, or hinting at her step-father’s abusive behaviour on Inordinary, perhaps there is more catharsis to be found in confronting your demons, rather than dressing them up.

Hayley Williams has long had a reputation for having an immaculate, captivating stage presence. Her energy is electric and, vocally, she can only be praised for her 4 octave range and effortless riffs and runs. FLOWERS for VASES / descansos goes further however, showcasing her ability to possess that same magnetism through acoustic, folk songs as well, laden with honest truths and deeply personal confessions. It is the overflowing spill of emotion against a musically comforting backdrop, and being acknowledged without judgement.

You can stream FLOWERS for VASES / descansos here.

Have you listened to the album? Let us know what you think @pieradiouk!

Written by Rachel Feehan