Ella O’Connor Williams recently released her debut album ‘I Was Born Swimming’ under her Squirrel Flower moniker via Polyvinyl Records. Ella was born on 11 August, 1996 (the hottest day of the year) with a membrane between her and the rest of the world (still inside of a translucent caul suc membrane, surrounded by amniotic fluid) and its this origin story that informs many of the journeys mentioned on this LP.
Recorded between her college town of Grinnell, Iowa, Boston, MA and New York City, the album opens with ‘I-80’ – a song that tracks a journey surrounded by nature including ‘the birds from above’. There’s a DIY aesthetic in the guitar sound as Ella opens the song by admitting ‘I tried to be lyrical but lyrics failed me, so I gave up poetry and ran west on I-80’. She then reveals ‘I tried to give my best to you, I tried my hardest’ over hefty guitar works and then almost restarts to the self-advice of ‘turn away, fly away’. ‘Slapback’ follows in more introspective Laura Marling-esque eerie folk fashion: ‘You could tell me that my smile is diamonds and than you could take it all back’. However, this takes a drastic turn with the statements ‘You don’t care what my answer is’ and ‘If you slap me, I’ll slap you right back’.
‘Headlights’ again features an incredible journey ‘driving through a wooded valley west of state’ and there’s an ethereal atmosphere in the guitar tone that brings to mind Jeff Buckley. This song finds Ella pondering the passage of time: ‘Realised I’m not getting older but I’m not getting younger’; ‘nothing really feels right’. Everything is turned up louder on the one-minute ‘Honey, Oh Honey!’ with its tongue-in-cheek and rhythmic words: ‘Honey, oh honey, so sticky and runny. Don’t take my honey away’. ‘Home’ is a touching ode to a lover who looks after you (‘You take me back home and carry me inside when I’ve fallen asleep on the road’; ‘You pull me out of bed in the morning, make sure I have my coat, make sure I’ve got my shoes tied up’) albeit tinged with sadness: ‘You leave, you leave me hanging’.
There’s another change of direction with the positive Tom Petty-esque Americana of ‘Streetlight Blues’: ‘All my friends are at the party but I’ve got other plans’; ‘My body is buzzing as I start to dance’. The penultimate ‘Belly of the City’ is full of innermost thoughts and desires (‘Midnight workers, I know the darkness of these roads as well as you do’) being listed in an impressive falsetto while the closing title track finds Ella looking forward: ‘Can you see me shimmer?’
Yes, we very much can.
Catch Squirrel Flower on the following tour dates:
02/10 – Berlin, Germany @ Baumhaus Bar
03/05 – Freeport, ME @ Cadenza
03/06 – Middletown, CT @ Mac 650 Art Gallery #
03/07 – Boston, MA @ Great Scott #
03/10 – Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe Upstairs #
03/11 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade #
03/13 – Washington, DC @ Songbyrd #
03/23 – Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge $
03/25 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo $
03/26 – San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill $
03/28 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza $
03/29 – Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge $
03/31 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court $
04/02 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge $
04/04 – Iowa City, IA @ Mission Creek Festival
04/06 – Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry $
04/07 – Chicago, IL @ Schubas $
04/08 – Lakewood, OH @ Mahall’s $
04/10 – Toronto, ON @ Drake Hotel #
04/11 – Montreal, QC @ Casa Del Popolo #
* w/ Strand of Oaks
# w/ Cedric Noel
$ w/ Why Bonnie