In Solitude, Hayley Williams Finds Herself
Her latest album, “Flowers for Vases/descansos,” grapples with grief through delicate vocals and pared-back instrumentation.
Hayley Williams is no stranger to baring her soul.
The Paramore frontwoman has belted and crooned about heartbreak, depression, and anger for more than a decade across five albums. Last May, though, Williams released her first solo album, Petals for Armor, after years of openly expressing disinterest in a project without Paramore. But what Petals for Armor achieved through bright, dancey synthpop and biting lyrics about the duality of resilience and rage, her latest release accomplishes through gentleness. Flowers for Vases/descansos finally lets Williams contemplate and mourn without needing to look on the bring side.
Recorded at her home studio in Nashville, Flowers for Vases/descansos is written and produced by Williams alone, a career first, without the assistance or influence of her bandmates. The songs themselves are autobiographical, detailing the separation, anxieties, and regrets that have haunted Williams after rocky, debilitating disputes with ex-members of Paramore as well as her divorce from New Found Glory’s Chad Gilbert. It’s an apt album after nearly a year spent in quarantine.
With Williams’ previous work, she would occasionally dip her toes in a ballad or slow jam, often as the final track of a Paramore album. But with Flowers for Vases, her typical tumultuousness has been replaced with a vulnerability, both vocally and musically. Soft and sparse instrumentation gives space for Williams’ emotions to sprawl. In the opening track, “First Thing To Go,” Williams admits something she hasn’t indicate before: the fear of figuring out who she is without someone at her side.“And I’m scared to lose,” she sings over plucky guitar strings. “What’s left of you…I finish my own sentences the way you used to / Why do memories glow the way real moments don’t?”
Naturally, separation and change runs as undercurrent throughout Flowers. She agonizes about her relationship with Gilbert in “Good Grief,” arguably the most harrowing and lonely song on the album. Without her partner, she’s “all skeleton and melody.” Music is the common language the two…