Published Feb 09, 2021Paramore vocalist Hayley Williams has always been a piano player, but FLOWERS for VASES / descansos showcases her instrumental strengths like never before. The 14-track, surprise-released follow-up to last year's Petals for Armor is performed entirely by Williams and recorded at her Nashville home. Unlike some of her previous work on Petals for Armor or Paramore's After Laughter that juxtapose dismal lyrics with upbeat arrangements, the songs on FLOWERS for VASES don't hide their true meanings behind bubbly pop music.
FLOWERS for VASES feels deeply intimate — you can hear the sounds of an airplane interrupting Williams as she tries to record "HYD" and the sound of a child laughing (perhaps a soundbite from her family's home video collection) on the "Descansos" interlude. The instrumentation throughout the whole album is simple — an acoustic guitar or piano chords, the occasional drum beat ramping up the tempo — so the focus is placed on Williams's strong and solid vocals.
Because there isn't a lot of production to hide behind, listeners can concentrate on the pure poetry of the lyrics. FLOWERS for VASES wallows in its grief, and invites listeners to embrace their grief too. "For every fairy tale untrue / And all the hearts yet to be broken / For every bird who never flew / Well, it's a wonder we keep going without you," Williams muses on "Wait On."
Williams has always been an honest lyricist, and it's because she's been open about her emotional trauma and depression that listeners can empathize with her; "I put all my demons on display / to your pretty music" she sings in "Good Grief." The lyrical themes of the album include the emotional trauma of her past relationships ("First Thing to Go," "My Limb"), her difficult childhood ("Inordinary") and finding hope in the future ("Over Those Hills"). She makes several lyrical references to previous songs she has written — a notable lyric, "The hurt is half the fun" in "Over Those Hills," is a callback to Paramore's "That's What You Get," where she sings "Why do we like to hurt so much?"
Seven albums and 16 years into her music career, Williams seems more confident than ever in doing as she pleases instead of pleasing others. As she proclaims in the album's closing song, "Just a Lover," "No more music for the masses." (Atlantic)