Hayley Williams's latest release FLOWERS for VASES / descansos was written and recorded completely by Williams herself, which already tells you this album will inevitably be something special.
You may initially think of this as Williams's own 'folklore' and 'evermore' however there's a stark difference - Taylor Swift used her lockdown albums to tell the stories of others, Hayley Williams is very much telling her own. Flowers for Vases / Descansos (FFV/D) is another album added to the 'lockdown' album genre, filled with acoustic instrumentals and lonely lyrical content.
FFV/D opens up with 'First One To Go', which combines a simple acoustic guitar with stunningly raw vocals. Immediately you can tell the style of this album will be far more pensive than her previous solo release. There's some minor experimentation with vocals but everything is pretty much kept clean and exposed, which is a trend you find throughout FFV/D.
Most of the songs on the album are short and sweet, which works very well with the style of the album. If there were too many long songs, it would almost become draining. However, Williams sticks to the 2-3 minute mark with most tracks, which gets the point across without going on unnecessarily.
Another surprise in FFV/D is the country twang that appears on multiple songs throughout. It may simply be that this genre just happens to rise out when you're doing a lot of simple vocals with acoustic guitar, but it certainly works well for this album. It's by no means full-on, but there's a certain twang to songs that could be construed as country-esque.
Asystole is an example of where this subtle sound comes out, and there are some gentle background instrumentals that break up this country-style and add a magical quality to the track. However, it's not necessarily the instrumentals that make this track stand out - it's the lyrics. Throughout this album of heartbreak and self-healing, there's plenty of lyrics that hit where it hurts, however you can really with Asystole that Williams is documenting her healing process with honesty and integrity, and it's a real testament to Williams that she feels so comfortable sharing these emotions with her audience. It's brave, it's real, and it makes FFV/D just that bit better
'Trigger' then continues into this journey of hurt with country twangs, except a delicate piano is also added to the instrumentals - yet another instrument Williams is playing herself.
FFV/D is a perfect example of a 'lockdown' album. It appears raw and unfinished, but in a way that adds charm rather than comes across badly. Every song feels like it was a cathartic creation, and shows the hurt and self-healing that Williams herself is going through, but her need to share this with the world feels as if she wants others going through similar bouts of loneliness and heartbreak to know that they're not alone.
There's storytelling, Williams harmonising with her own vocals, undecipherable audio clips and so many other aspects of the album that are experimental. However, you almost don't notice the experimentation as the concept of the album is so put together and consistent. Williams is branching her own skills out by making this album, almost as if she's testing the waters for future releases.
This idea is solidified in the final track 'Just a Lover'. This is where the style Hayley Williams is known for really comes through: rock. It's not too intense and still fits with the flow of the album, however, Just a Lover feels like it's transitioning into a new era; away from the melancholy and the hurt and into something new. It teases the listener with something else, but then, of course, the album finishes.
It will be exciting to see what comes next for Hayley Williams. Within this release she has once again shown the variety she has in her own voice and shows herself as a powerhouse for music creation. FLOWERS for VASES / Descansos shows that sometimes being vulnerable pays off, with its peaceful sound and tumultuous confessionals coming together to make a really great album.