Hayley Williams Lets Go in Her Sophomore Solo Album

On this self-defined prequel to her debut album “Petals for Armor,” Hayley Williams explores a quieter, softer sound while reciting love letters to a dead relationship.

Photo by Jonathan Velasquez on Unsplash

Created in isolation, “FLOWERS for VASES / descansos” paints a picture of the internal conversations Hayley Williams had while going through the processes of healing and letting go of this dead relationship. 

The album serves as a companion to her 2020 solo debut “Petals for Armor;” a three-part album in which Williams explores the different aspects of healing and growth after her divorce from her partner of 10 years. “FLOWERS for VASES / descansos” focuses on the grieving state. However, rather than a follow-up, Williams defines “FLOWERS” as a prequel or an extended detour between the first and second parts of Petals.

The name of the album, as explained by Williams on a Tweet, represents the process of learning to let go of dead things. The word “descansos” refers to markings placed in memoriam at the side of the roads where unexpected deaths occured. In the context of the album, this illustrates the mourning over the lost relationship that Williams sings about. 

Truly a solo project, the Paramore lead singer wrote every lyric and played every instrument in the album. Through delicate guitar strumming and intimate storytelling, Williams presents a record that feels fully hers. 

The album perfectly illustrates the recent, mildly dystopian trend of the quarantine album. The influence of the isolation from the world represents itself in the quietness and simplicity.

This quieter sound allows the intimate lyrics to really shine through in this deeply personal album. At times, the listener feels as if they’re intruding into Williams’ private, personal diaries. A great contributor to this intense intimate feeling is the inclusion of voicenote recordings in multiple tracks. A perfect example of the level of intimacy achieved in the record is the song “HYD;” a song so delicate but so direct that just listening to it feels like an invasion of privacy.

The folk melodies of the album truly contrast with the anthemic indie-pop brightness presented in “Petals for Armor.” The ethereal sound achieved through simple guitar and piano might become a bit monotone at certain points of the record, but the striking lyrical content of every song allows every track to shine in their own way. 

While known for her impressive acrobatic vocals with Paramore, Williams sticks to a simpler approach for “FLOWERS.” She accompanies the delicate sound of the record with mostly her lower register. Rather than showing off her insane vocal talent, Williams focuses on intimate storytelling.

In the album’s closer track, “Just a Lover,” Williams sings, “I’ll be singing into empty glasses / No more music for the masses.” 

These songs are not for the crowds— they are for her. 

Track highlights: Trigger, Just a Lover, My Limb, Good Grief

Local Artist Spotlight: The Housing Crisis

Starting a musical endeavor in a pandemic is not ideal. But for The Housing Crisis it has proved to work out just fine so far.

Dylan O'Bryan is a second-year student at UF. Photo by Julia Collins

Dylan kicks his shoe into the far corner of his childhood bedroom and agonizingly runs his hands through his hair. Glancing around his room as though looking at it from new eyes, he sees his guitars, a few potted plants, his trusty computer and a chemistry textbook strewn on the bed. Instead of getting more frustrated about the situation, he decides to sit down and write.

“It’s never been so clear to me

The truth, I never wanted to believe

I’m not what you want

So look for someone else.”

When listening to this song, “Someone Else,” it would seem as though it’s written about an emotional breakup. And it is — kind of. Dylan O’Bryan was an engineering major, but after he realized he’d rather be making music than studying chemistry, he changed his major to music composition.

“And so kind of saying like, “I'm not what you want, look for someone else,” that was me saying that, nothing against them, but it was me saying that to my professors. I'm not going to be an engineer,” O’Bryan said.

Making music during a pandemic is not easy, but O'Bryan is doing it. Photo by Julia Collins

The second-year UF student Dylan O’Bryan, 20, does not regret changing his major at all. In fact, it pushed him to want to make and release his own music, and thus his one-man-band, The Housing Crisis, was born.

Like Tame Impala or Panic! At The Disco, The Housing Crisis is one artist who chose a band-like name for his musical venture. O’Bryan says he chose The Housing Crisis as an homage to the 2008 financial housing crisis. Originally from upstate New York, O’Bryan and his family were forced to move to Florida with his grandparents when the crisis hit.

“That always kind of stuck with me as one of those moments that just completely changes the trajectory of your life,” O’Bryan reminisced.

That 2008 financial crisis shaped a generation. According to Richard Florida in an Atlantic cover story, “The crash of 2008 continues to reverberate loudly nationwide — destroying jobs, bankrupting businesses, and displacing homeowners.” Though that article was written in 2009, the same principle echoes eerily into 2021.

O'Bryan smiles at the thought of getting to perform music live again one day soon. Photo by Julia Collins

During his time as The Housing Crisis, O’Bryan has so far released one EP, one single, and has a new single "Thru My Mind" that dropped February 18th. O’Bryan writes, records, produces and masters all of his songs in his bedroom. When asked why he didn’t outsource any of the components, he said it’s partly because he likes the process of every element, but also because of COVID-19. According to a Rolling Stone cover story from May 2020, “Some artists, including Lady Gaga, delayed their album releases or announced suspensions of upcoming tour plans.” The coronavirus pandemic rocked the entire music industry, and people had to get creative. It’s interesting that O’Bryan chose to begin his music career, while most of the rest of the music world were putting theirs on pause.

Because O’Bryan began his individual musical venture during the start of lockdown and into the forthcoming months, he hasn’t had the opportunity to play his songs onstage yet. However, the stage is not unfamiliar to him. Being a former theatre kid, O’Bryan knows the rush of adrenaline performing on a stage can give you and is excited to experience that again when he can.

Until that day, he’s been performing with the popular music ensemble in the music school at UF.

O'Bryan shakes his head at missing playing on stage. Photo by Julia Collins.

Jason Mullen, 36, is a PhD student studying ethnomusicology and is also the director of the popular music ensemble.

“Dylan is an excellent musician and outstanding member of the ensemble,” Mullen said. “He contributes musically, but also contributes beyond music in a way. He helps to create a creative and open environment where people can bring their ideas and we can get the best work done together.”

Mullen says the ensemble is a time where, every Thursday, O’Bryan shows up to learn and share everything he can about music. With his solo The Housing Crisis endeavors, it seems O’Bryan craves the control and satisfaction of seeing every element of the song-making process come to fruition. But in the popular concert ensemble, O’Bryan appreciates the collaborative elements that come with playing in a group. O’Bryan joined the ensemble class in the Fall 2020 semester, the first official semester where he was a music composition major. Mullen has worked with O’Bryan since then and they’ve gotten to work together in a way they both describe as incredibly meaningful.

“It builds a level of trust to kind of put yourself out there and say, ‘Tell me what you think needs to change, so that way it can be better,’” Mullen said.

And O’Bryan does that. Not only during the ensemble, but for The Housing Crisis as well. When O’Bryan was just starting to tinker with the idea of making music, he sent some voice memos to friends to see what they thought of his early ideas. They assured him they all loved what he was doing, and that boost of confidence helped him decide to start learning how to produce and make songs.

O'Bryan sits outside his second home, the music school. Photo by Julia Collins

“We know that he has an attention to detail and we know that he takes it very seriously and puts a lot of work into his music,” Mullen said. “But music isn’t always in the sound itself, it’s also in what’s around it; and the people around it… And knowing Dylan and his music, he is a person that cares a lot about others.”

Being as he cares a lot about others, it’s fitting that O’Bryan said he occasionally challenges himself to write songs outside of his own emotions to try and broaden his songwriting skills. He says no two songs he’s made so far have been written the same way. O’Bryan wants people who listen to his songs to hopefully get some cathartic relief out of listening to them — he wants people to relate.

He’s just glad that he’s interested in music and not acting, as having the same name as the other Dylan O’Brien would’ve proved difficult.

Watch the on-air interview we also did below:

Julia interviews O'Bryan on her show The Friday Blend.


More Posts for Show: Julia

Is a Party-Pop Experimentation the Move for Foo Fighters Medicine at Midnight?

By: Nicholas Palmer

Photo from Unsplash

If you’ve ever considered yourself a lover of all types of musical genres, then you’ve probably heard of the Foo Fighters before. And, if you consider yourself a rock music enthusiast, chances are you’ve heard one of their singles, even if you haven’t dabbled in the band’s records. As such, with the band only continuing their legendary success with a nomination into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the question someone would ask themselves is: where does a band with a 25-year legacy go from here? How does a group so imprinted in the rock and roll genre possibly reimagine itself?

Therein lies their 10th album, Medicine at Midnight. A party-pop, dance album that takes both elements that the group has worked on before and also completely walks away from that. Going for the more sing-along pop-rock kind of songs, this album definitely feels constructed under the idea of sing-along concert venue songs. And, with those being on hiatus indefinitely, this album for fans is the next best thing to attending a live performance. With writing beginning after a brief hiatus in 2018, and with some ghostly stints in the recording process at a 1940s house (I personally would look up the story to hear some of the testimonies from the bandmates) the album was finished rather quick, but delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The band would then later decide to release the album to lift sprits regardless, with it releasing February 5th, 2021.

Songs that really grabbed my attention and represented much of the high points on this album were: “Cloudspotter,” “Holding Poison,” and, one of the singles, “Waiting on a War.” “Cloudspotter,” the third track on the album, is so unique to me in part due to its percussion and vocals. The harmonization between Dave Grohl and the female voice is beautiful, and the deep voice mumbling ‘cloudspotter’ was almost chilling. As well, the buildup into the final chorus, along with the yelling and explosive vocals, help give this album its first real jolt of energy and provides a great experience.

“Holding Poison,” the 7th track on the album, does a lot of word painting around its lyrics that adds a fun layer to the song on the whole. When the word ‘down’ gets sung, the melody goes down and when the lead singer sings ‘around and around’ the harmonic progression continues to get higher and higher as if the listener is being spun around and around. As well, during the guitar solo section, which on its own is a very nice addition to the song to help break up any sort of monotony, there’s a sort of choral vocal element in the background which just adds that extra layer of interest to the song. In essence, this song builds upon the percussive and melodic elements before it, but takes a lot of interesting turns that create unexpected and uplifting moments throughout.

Finally, there’s the single “Waiting on a War.” It was by far my favorite song on the album. A definite concert song, Dave Grohl stated that he wrote the song in relation to his past growing up in the Cold War era, where the threat of war was always possible. This is reflected in the line “everyday waiting for the sky to fall” with the threat of nuclear destruction always leering over the head of past generations. Besides its strong message, the whisking voice carries this almost ghostly present of the past, with acoustic guitar definitely giving it a reflective feeling. The ending, however, is a must listen to. As different instruments were added throughout the song, they come together for an explosive finale with typical rock elements as the tone turns from bleak to hopeful. Climatic and tumultuous; maybe society can keep waiting on a war just a little more.

While I mostly enjoyed the album, there were some critiques I had with the album on the whole. While I had no issues with the performance, nor the instrumentation on the album altogether, there were elements that ,when taken with the rest of the album, created a less than perfect listening experience. One of those being that a lot of the instrumentals were similar throughout the whole album. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but by the time you reach the ninth and final song on the album “Love Dies Young,” you start to feel like you have already heard the beginning section somewhere else in a different song. Moreover, while every chorus felt unique and different, that was only true if you examined each individually. A lot of the time, many songs by the final chorus felt repetitive. And with many having a four plus minute runtime, this felt like it didn’t need to be so.

Overall, as someone who has never fully explored Foo Fighters discography before and as someone not that familiar with their music, I would say that I was pleasantly surprised by this album. With this being their 10th studio album, it seems to me and general listening audiences that this album did not drastically change or reshape anyone’s perceptions of Foo Fighters. In this point in their career, however, maybe that’s okay. Being inducted into the hall of fame and having countless charted singles and awards, it seems at this point all the members need do is write music that pleases them and their fans. Hopefully, fans of Foo Fighters can hear these pieces, especially the real treasurable ones in concert soon. Until then, give this album a concert-like listen in your own house — your own personal medicine at midnight.

New Song Recommendations to Broaden Your Music Taste

Photo by Travis Yewell on Unsplash

Do you often find yourself listening to the same few songs over and over and wish you could find new music to add to your playlists? I’ve curated a small sample of songs that I think you’ll enjoy if you like the following artists:

If You Like: Ariana Grande

Photo by Roger Harris on Unsplash

For starters, if you like Ariana as a whole, I definitely think that you will enjoy Chloe x Halle’s “Don’t Make It Harder On Me”

Hardcore Arianators might recognize Victoria Monet and Tayla Parx, both being longtime Ariana collaborators that share a similar vibe in their music. 

You might have heard Monet’s “Monopoly” featuring Ariana Grande already, but if you’re a Positions stan, check out Victoria Monet’s “Experience” featuring Khalid and SG Lewis. 

Parx worked with Ariana to make hits like “7 rings”, “thank u, next”, and “34+35”. If you enjoy these absolute bops, you need to listen to Tayla Parx’s “I Want You”.

If you enjoy Ariana’s R&B-influenced pop sound, you’ll love iyla’s “Naked Girl”.

Just here for the vibes? Give a listen to Tei Shi’s “Even If It Hurts” featuring Blood Orange.

For a catchy, unapologetic banger with big thank u, next energy, check out FLETCHER’s “Bitter” featuring Kito. 

If You Like: Taylor Swift

Photo by Raphael Lovaski on Unsplash

Have you been going back and forth between folklore and evermore for the past few months? Give Samia’s “Triptych” a listen. 

Are you a fan of old Taylor music? Do you also like HAIM? Then you might like Waxahatchee’s “Lilacs” too. 

For a more Lover and indie pop vibe, I would go for Maude Latour’s “One More Weekend” and spill tab’s “Name

If you’re looking for a sad girl anthem that might come with tears included, listen to Sasha Sloan’s “House With No Mirrors”. 

If You Like: Harry Styles

Photo by Rachel Coyne on Unsplash

If you’re not a fan already, I’m sure you’ll love Declan McKenna. In terms of sound, I think his music is the closest you can get to Harry’s. Check out Declan McKenna’s “You Better Believe!!!

You might already be familiar with Jack Antonoff, A.K.A. the mastermind and frequent collaborator of Taylor Swift, Lorde, Lana del Rey, etc. If you haven’t already, check out Bleachers’ “I Wanna Get Better”. 

If you like songs like “Golden” and “Lights Up”, check out Rina Sawayama’s “Love Me 4 Me”.

For a similar sound from a local band, listen to Flipturn’s “August”. 

For a Kiwi-like explosive and energetic song, check out The Wrecks’ “Freaking Out”.

Finally, if you’re a Harry stan, I definitely recommend you look into The Regrettes’ “Pumpkin”. 

Sara's Bachelorette Review

The 2020 Bachelorette Recap

By: Sara Dastgerdi

Tuesday, October 13th was the premiere of season 16 of The Bachelorette. Clare Crawley is the leading lady, but she definitely isn't a new face in the bachelor franchise. She debuted in Juan Pablo Galavis’ season and made it to the top 2. She was also featured on Bachelor in Paradise and Bachelor in Paradise Again, as well as Bachelor Winter Games with no luck. Fun fact, she is also the oldest bachelorette in bachelor history at 39, but is back with full confidence that she’ll find her husband this time around.

The season premiere was actually supposed to air months ago, but was postponed to now because of the Covid pandemic. All contestants flew to California where they were tested and quarantined to ensure a safe season. They are all living in a La Quinta resort corona free with no access to outside contacts so they can freely communicate and experience all the season has to offer.

Recap

The creative intros are always my favorite part of the show, especially since everyone had been quarantined for months on end prior to this. They finally had the ability to have human interaction as well as physical contact upon meeting Clare, which many of them were just excited to finally hug another person. Some of the more notable entrances were: Ed arriving in a bubble with a play on quarantine, Jay in a straitjacket because he was crazy in love, and Demar in a parachute. However, viewers could tell Dale had a special place in Clare’s heart from the get go. He ultimately ended up receiving the first impression rose.

On to the legendary cocktail party. Clare mixed and mingled with a few guys before, of course, drama emerged. Tyler C. claimed fellow contestant Yosef was messaging other women from Tyler’s town and was not there for the right reasons. Clare had to step in and Yosef ended up denying the claim. Clare was not going to let this bump in the road affect her happiness this season, so she brushed it off and continued to mingle.

Blake was another contestant that stood out in Clare's mind. Apparently, he messaged her during quarantine, which is against the rules to have prior contact. She applauded him for his boldness and they shared the first kiss of the season.

The rose ceremony was hard for Clare because she was unable to meet every contestant. Despite that, she sent Tyler C., Jordan M., Robby, Page, Mike, AJ, Chris, and Jeremy home, with 23 men still remaining.

The second episode had just as much drama. It started out with the first group date, which featured Riley, Ivan, Bennett, Jordan, Yosef, Ben, Zach J, Zach C, and of course, her personal favorite... Dale.

She decided on doing a date centered around the love languages. Up first was words of affirmations and with this one she lived out every girls fantasy. Clare stood in a princess tower while attractive men went one by one as they graced her with their words of affirmation. The second part to this was that the men had to go to their rooms and gift Clare with something of value to them and explain their choice. Next was physical touch, where she was blindfolded, while hugging and touching each contestant. Finally, it really started heating up during the quality time portion of the event, which was a cocktail party. There was an awkward silence where no man tried to take Clare away right at the start, but Bennett took initiative. Clare was visibly upset by this and couldn’t even focus on her one on one time with Bennett, which ultimately made Clare march right back up to the group of men and lecture them.

"I really couldn't concentrate and focus on talking with [Bennett] because I'm a little bit taken aback. I'm sitting here, I made a toast, and then there was the longest awkward silence and I just sat here and was embarrassed. Does anybody want to spend time with me?"

There was a trail of sorries matched with more awkwardness and talk of wanting bro time. Sorry, but the bachelorette is neither the time or place for brotherhood. Aren't they supposed to be competing against each other? Anyway, Riley ended up receiving the group rose.

Clare selected former pro football player Jason for the one on one date. It was honestly a real nice concept for a date. She had him write a letter to his past self and she did the same. They opened up, were vulnerable, and even let it all out by screaming into the night. I think they learned a lot about each other and it even resulted in Jason receiving a rose, as well as a kiss.

Now this is where the conflict starts. The second group date involved a game of dodgeball with a twist Clare added. Everytime a team lost they had to strip an article of clothing and the winning team was awarded an after party with Clare. The teams were divided by the colors red and blue. They ended up playing four games until ultimately blue took the loss. The blue team took their walk of shame like pros, but there was one sore loser. Blake actually interrupted the red after party to take Clare away, which caused a huge altercation between the red team who won the time with Clare fair and square. Clare still ended up awarding him with a rose for being bold yet again, which I thought was kind of weird. Chasen got the group rose.

Another thing that happened in this episode was Brandon being sent home, for a pretty hysterical reason too. She finally had one on one time with him and he told her he was so excited to be a part of this season when he found out she was going to be the bachelorette. She was flattered, asking what he liked so much about her and he literally couldn't answer. Like he could have said anything.

On to week three……

Remember Yosef? Well he calls Clare out this episode. He explained that the strip dodgeball game from the prior episode was immature and a “classless display”. He even went as far as to say he was “ashamed to be associated with [Clare].” This of course got a reaction out of her and just like that another contestant was gone.

Clare gets a special visit from former bachelorette DeAnna Stagliano. She was so excited to talk to someone that understands this experience and process, but she ends up on the topic of Dale the whole time. I mean who's really surprised?

Speaking of Dale, he was definitely the most hated contestant this episode.To kick off the group date, he explained that he was only going to steal Clare for five minutes, which to the other guys dismay turned into an hour. This resulted in the other guys not having adequate time with the bachelorette and to make matters worse, he had the audacity to steal her again from poor Jay. Can you give the other guys a chance please?

Chasen swooped in and interrupted the love birds. When Dale returned to the other men, they ripped him a new one before Dale got the group rose. Zach J got the one-on-one this week, but honestly I just feel bad for anyone that's not Dale at this point. Clare and Zach hit the spa, where Zach got his first ever pedicure. Multiple times she mentioned how much she wanted  Dale to be there during her interviews. I also had the worst second hand embarrassment. They both hung out at the pool and as Clare was leaving to get ready for their dinner date, she went in for a kiss, but somehow noticed that Zach was pulling away, which he claimed he wasn't. He tried to pull her back in but this rattled her. She didn't show up for dinner and he was sent home.

In my opinion, the best part of the entire season so far was this second group date, which was a comedy roast where they were encouraged to roast someone in the house. Of course, everyone came for Dale. It was absolutely hilarious, but someone that didn't appreciate the comedy gold was the women of the hour. She ends up not giving out a rose because they flamed her man.

The preview of the next episode was shocking. The guys were shown packing up their things, Chris Harrison was explaining that this has never happened before, Clare is crying, and Tayshia Adams emerges from the water. New bachelorette?

Catch more of the drama every Tuesday on ABC.