While a new album was on the horizon, we were not expecting a new release anytime soon. The last we heard from Williams were Self-Serenades, a short acoustic EP sharing stripped versions of her last full length, Petals For Armor. The EP was unveiled just a few weeks ago, but sparked the inspiration and rumors for another extended project on the horizon. While remaining in the healing process of Hayley Williams, she has become the flower finally able to breathe and bloom into her full potential.
FLOWERS for VASES was released this Friday, all by surprise to listeners and fans alike. Williams uses beautiful and poetic wordplay that’ll inspire any soul into singing and creating from their pains for a release. She truly has outdone herself with this album; it bears out her soul in an entirely different way than we’re used to coming from this vocal powerhouse. We get a look into the depths of her heart through a simultaneously gentle and raw telling of her story.
Beginning the album, “First Thing to Go” is an emotional intro into the world of Hayley Williams’ creation. Starting with an acoustic verse, Hayley’s voice is put on display as it spins a web of loneliness and isolation, the first pangs of emptiness after a relationship is over and there’s nothing but a hole shaped seemingly made for that person you were so used to having around. The song builds on itself and adds piano and a drum beat as it progresses, and the song then ends with the same verse it began with: “the first thing to go was the sound of his voice.” While it echoes the beginning of the song, it shows the pattern and train of thought that loneliness has to offer.
The next track, “My Limb,” sequels beautifully from the previous song rhythmically, but doesn’t share that same stripped and vulnerable sound. It builds off the introduction Williams creates beginning the album, all while breaking into a new chapter of the story. “My Limb” is the process of amputation of a part of the body, rotting, spreading, and slowly killing its host. And a deep and knowing relationship feels like one body, working together and knowing of itself. When something goes wrong and toxic, the breaking apart is all the harder. Hayley Williams lays bare a vulnerable state in her life for all to see, and shares that difficulty in breaking apart from someone she knew so well, just like her own limbs, but had to break away from to keep what remained of herself alive so she could become whole again.
Following, “Asystole,” picks a more upbeat tempo with another acoustic intro, but her emotional melody soothes her audience into something much more. By definition: asystole, colloquially referred to as a flatline, represents the cessation of electrical and mechanical activity of the heart. As the track progresses, the guitar harmonizes with her voice as her lyrics war against moving on from the pains of her past, and the possibilities of living on alone. The will to keep moving on is there, but the heart and deep feelings latch on to the memories, keeping her held back and from making the clean break- the flatline- needed in order for her to keep pressing on. The piano echoes quietly in the background after the second verse, building onto the track as a whole, but singing its own sad song on its own and changing the pace of the song. “Asystole” seems to end with one last strum of the guitar. Instrumentally, she creates that flatline. Then the piano that was once quietly heard takes the front stage until the real conclusion of the track.
The next song, “Trigger,” processes through her past from another perspective; one that has grown from the beginning of the album, but only a few steps further along the path toward healing. Refusing to hold back, she is honest with her audience in her lyrics, and in that honesty, her words punch right in the gut. “All I ever had to say about love is a sad song/I get off on telling everybody what’s wrong,” she sings. There’s guilt in herself and disappointment beyond her experiences, destroying her from within. However, as the track continues, there’s a transition and hope for better, rather than purely the fear of being alone as the self-destruction continues to play out and weigh on her.
“Over those Hills” begins with an interlude, a simple plucking of the guitar, and it feels much more like a demo rather than a polished intro. Then, the song breaks into its real beginning. Without expressing the feelings of missing someone, it shares the wonder and curiosities of how they’re doing instead. Even deeper than wondering how they’re doing, it brings to surface a selfish, almost toxic, question of wondering how they’re doing without her to wake up next to. Swimming in these dark feelings is half the excitement of life, as Williams admits she “thought [she’d] had enough, but the hurt is half the fun.”
The next song twists the term, “Good Grief,” into a concrete idea, flushing out the darkness in grieving over loss. “There’s no such thing as good grief/I haven’t eaten in three weeks,” Williams sings. She seems to contemplate what annoyed this person about her, and she vows not to sing, that she’ll be quiet while they play – “one more time, I’m listening.” It’s easy to ponder the what if’s after the fall of a deep love, and this song reflects going back and forth about what you could have done differently. The track concludes with a transition into an interlude- a child’s voice burbling into the atmosphere.
“Wait On,” the sick hope in wishing for things to be the way they were before, despite the destruction it caused. “The sky still wakes up in the morning” speaks to Williams’ resilience and the empowerment of keeping your chin up, despite all the ups and downs of day-to-day dramas. And in this resilience, she expresses the extent of abuse and manipulation she endured for the sake of love. Though it stifled her and kept her from growing, she continued to destroy herself from within as the one she loved used her pains together. This is expressed beautifully as she sings, “There was a bird that never flew/but she still had all her feathers/and she would pluck them out for you/to wear in your hair and you’d be together.”
The next track is a lyrically simple song with a delicate yet engulfing soundscape that makes the listener want to just bathe in it. “KYRH” primarily showcases the piano and the humming of her voice. Just as the lyrics express, the song keeps “you right here, at the surface.” You can feel the yearning Hayley feels for the subject of her writing so strongly it’s not easy to ignore or brush off. Gripping its listener into a panic and desperation for warmth and comfort; its lyrics become the desperate crawl and grasp for anything it can sink its fingers into. This song may be simple in its instrumentation, but Williams is an expert and knew exactly what she was doing when putting this song together. Every note has a purpose and serves it well.
“Inordinary” is another simply beautiful composition of primarily voice and guitar, building toward the end with piano and echoes of her lyrics. The song touches on the feeling of always being seen as one of the guys, being ordinary and belonging to no one. Hayley shares an anecdote of starting over with her mother, free in Tennessee. This song is composed of simply voice and guitar and highlights the beauty to be found in the ordinary.
“HYD” begins with a short audio tape, seemingly of Hayley attempting to record this song while an airplane so rudely passes overhead washing her out in the loud rumbles. It jumps into a proper recording, starting back from the top, with quality acoustics. Gorgeous humming harmonies support her soft melodies, and with the help of guitar strums, make for a melancholy tune filled with nostalgia. Contemplating losing someone to fear is heart-wrenching and this song takes you through those emotions.
Stripped to just piano and vocals with ethereal sounds and strings overlaying, “No Use I Just Do” hits home to the phrase the heart wants what it wants. The chorus repeats the same profession over and over again: “it’s no use, I just love you.”
The next song “Find Me Here” depicts the reality of loving someone who needs to go off on their own. Hayley finds herself in a relatable position that she’ll still be here if or when this someone wants her around again and comes home. It sounds like a love song you would sing to yourself on your balcony on an evening of reminiscence under the night sky.
“Descansos” is one of those instrumental songs that brings you to tears almost immediately. Hayley masterfully emotes strong, powerful, vulnerable feelings through piano, strings, and audio clips of youth. “Descansos” is the plural form of a cross placed at the site of a violent, unexpected death, in memoriam. Why would Hayley choose to add this word into her album? Perhaps it serves as a great metaphor for part of herself dying, or cutting that part of herself off that was dying, and laying it to rest. Her hauntingly beautiful hums, both low and falsetto, bring an airy sentiment over the heavy, nostalgic weight of this track. It seamlessly transitions into the final song of the album.
Echoes of Hayley’s humming and plucks on piano from the previous track bleed over into “Just A Lover.” The track picks up with a simple drum beat of kick and snare pick. Eventually a bass groove and high-hat nuances join the instrumentation, culminating to “one last chorus.” Channeling the energy of Alanis Morrissette in this femininely indie-rock chorus, Hayley brings her album of personal, heart-breaking love songs to a close.
The album from start to finish is full of songs clearly very close to Williams’ heart. Her vulnerability and raw honesty of the head space she’s been in is utterly inspiring. This album will most definitely serve as place of solace for anyone navigating these emotions on their own. Once again Hayley has put into words the devastating experiences most push away out of their psyche. Her bravery of nipping these feelings in the bud, calling them by name, and singing them in love songs will hopefully allow her to put them to rest as the release of this album closes a chapter for her.
Hayley Williams’ album, “FLOWERS for VASES,” is available on all streaming platforms:
Article written by Cass Mclaughlin and Helana Michelle