Press Play: Hayley Williams embraces stripped-down instrumentation with “Flowers For Vases”

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Photo credit/ Autumn Bohner

Hayley Williams’ new solo album shows the singer embracing storytelling and stripped-down instrumentation.

Michael Kelley, Staff Writer

With the COVID-19 pandemic underway and concerts and festivals all canceled, what was the next best thing for Hayley Williams to do? Write and self-produce another album of course.

Williams’ new solo effort, “Flowers for Vases,” serves as an expansion from her previous album, “Petals For Armor,” which was released last year.

Her first album took us on a journey of what has been inside her head for years and expressed a journey towards self-love and discovering relationships. This new album serves as a prequel as it expands on the universe she built during her last album.

For this album, she is embracing a new approach to music through stripped-down instrumentation and storytelling. Some people may think the album is hard to get into because it is a complete 180 from her prior album. For others, like myself, this is another addition to their sad playlist.

Williams herself compares this album to Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” because both albums focus on a collection of stories. Like “Folklore,” this album was also a surprise release. The release came after the track “My Limb” was leaked online before being taken down by her record label.

So, how does Williams choose to shape her image with this album?

The first song on the album, “First Thing To Go,” is focused on stripped-back instrumentation like her “Self-Serenades” EP. This starting track feels like a guide into a distant memory with the soft strumming from an acoustic guitar that almost feels dreamy. The song details the fear of losing a current love as Williams has experienced in the past.

I would consider the second track, “My Limb,” to be the most produced sounding song with how constructed it is to other tracks on the album. This song signifies the themes of cutting off negative people or negative mindsets. The dark instrumentation feels like the 2008-track “Decoded” from her band Paramore, but more stripped back. The only drawback to the song is that the chorus can get a bit repetitive.

“Asystole” is a very romantic-sounding track. The title refers to the state of total cessation of electrical activity from the heart. Although this track sounds romantic, Williams uses this song to describe how she questions whether to end a relationship.

In “Good Grief,” Williams shows how much the damaging people in her life have taken a toll on her well-being. This track has a western feeling. There is also a hint of piano playing towards the middle and the end of this track.

The next four songs, “KYRH,” “Inordinary,” “HYD” and “No Use I Just Do” are the highlight of the album. “KYRH” and “No Use I Just Do” are both piano ballads that have tugged my heartstrings throughout both tracks. I connected with the latter track the most because of its theme of finding love and opening yourself up to the idea of love. “Inordinary” and ”HYD” both feature an acoustic guitar and autobiographical lyrics.

With this album, Williams diverts from her first solo project, which has a less stripped-back production. The album does have a little charm that comes with it with some of the songs mentioned. However, certain songs on the album do feel dull at times. Songs like “Trigger,” “Over Those Hills” and “Wait On” feel forgettable compared to what the rest of the album feels. However, I can appreciate the treasures found throughout this album.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Vinyl

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Twitter: @mkelleyww