When Hayley Williams hand-delivered a CD to a fan on Jan. 28, asking her to leak the only song, “My Limb,” on it as a part of the Wolf Moon, her silky smooth vocals filled everyone’s desires for more.
No one expected a full 14-track album, though, especially since her first solo album, Petals for Armor, just dropped nine months ago. And no one expected it to be as vulnerable and dejected as it is, even for someone like Williams, who constantly puts her all into everything she writes, but here FLOWERS for VASES / descansos is in all its melancholic glory.
The follow-up to Petals for Armor, though Williams says it acts more as a “prequel” than anything else, was written and produced by the icon entirely herself amid quarantine. Basically the lovechild of boygenius and Taylor Swift’s Folklore, FLOWERS for VASES / descansos is soaked with catharsis, manifesting a folksy daydream through Williams’ damaged but beautiful psyche that encompasses her richest storytelling to date.
FLOWERS for VASES / descansos is not just a batch of songs Williams wrote to pass the time. It’s the release of pent-up feelings she’s held for who knows how long, finding their form in mostly acoustic guitars, keys and ethereal synths. It’s how humanity has felt for the past year now — alone, like there’s no end — but Williams just has a special way of presenting it in an infectious, digestible, soothing form. While every track has its own stunning piece of beauty that deserves recognition — get 30 seconds into the opener, “First Thing To Go” and hear those runs for yourself — here are the five that especially stand out:
5. “Wait On”
It’s easier to say you’re over someone than to actually live it. “Wait On,” slapped right in the middle of the album, is Williams’ ode to better days, hoping to eventually be able to get through one without thinking about this unnamed person — perhaps her ex-husband — who always seems to infiltrate her thoughts. A steady, sweet acoustic guitar alongside scattered uplifting keys accentuates Williams’ airy vocals as she tries to convince herself that all the pain she’s experiencing currently will somehow be worth it someday.
4. “My Limb”
Since “My Limb” was the first track heard from the album due to the leak, many figured, once the full album was announced, this would be a straight continuation of Petals For Armor, since the vocal delivery and drum progression in the chorus bear resemblance to its lead single, “Simmer.” “My Limb” is the only track of its kind on the album, though. Williams knows she has to move on from what isn’t there anymore, but she keeps switching back and forth from “let go” to “don’t let go,” as her brain craves to continue torturing her. It may say the track’s title over 50 times within the track’s 2-minute and 53-second runtime, but it’s absurdly catchy.
This track is as spellbinding as they come, but imagine a remix of it with Phoebe Bridgers on supporting vocals. Just imagine. “Trigger,” guided by a swirling acoustic guitar, finds Williams looking in retrospect. All she’s ever sought is genuine, unconditioned love, and each time she’s finally felt she’s found it, the person takes advantage of her. It ends with her asking the same questions of why her significant other always felt the need to assert their dominance, hinting that she’ll probably never find an answer.
Two carbon copy verses, separated by the dreamiest instrumental of 2021 thus far, make up “KYRH,” an acronym for “keep you right here.” Though she knows her ex didn’t treat her well, she also longs for them out of loneliness and a need for familiarity. The instrumental, which is a splattering of hypnotizing keys and breathy vocals, has the ability to continue the conversation without words, forging Williams’ feelings of desire for intimacy for her.
1. “No Use I Just Do”
After undergoing a toxic relationship, it’s easy to fear falling for someone again. Williams begins to feel the love being formed in this newfound relationship consuming all her thoughts, and she realizes she can’t stop herself — because love is something that no matter how hard you try, you can’t control. What sounds like strings fade in and out, humanizing Williams’ confused and frustrated emotions, as she inevitably thinks ahead to the future, when these feelings will come back to haunt her. The track is all too relatable, and it’s the best on FLOWERS for VASES / descansos.