Release Date: Jan 31, 2020
Record label: Polyvinyl
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Squirrel Flower - real name Ella O'Connor Williams - has been perfecting her craft for years within the Boston DIY scene, so it makes sense that this record comes with none of the associations of a debut, and is instead the sound of a fully-formed artist. Williams' adeptness in guitar forms the cornerstone of each song, wide ranging from the storming riff of "Red Shoulder", to the gentle finger-picking of "Headlights", to the slow, haunting strum of "Rush"; folded around that are her bold, graceful vocals, her melodies striking and elevating. The title I Was Born Swimming refers to Williams' birth, the fact that she came out of the womb still floating in amniotic fluid.
As Squirrel Flower, Boston native Ella O'Connor Williams creates a world of moody, sometimes celestial indie rock anchored by a magnetic voice as airy and smooth as it is powerful. She began releasing music while attending college in Iowa, developing a thoughtful and sparse sound rooted around her heavily reverbed solo electric guitar and vocals. A winsome mix of crystalline melodies and earthy textures, her first two outings found a small fan base and some critical respect as well as a deal with the Polyvinyl label.
The first thing that hits you with 'I Was Born Swimming' is the brutally honest nature of it all. There's an overriding sense that this is going to be a wholesome, riveting and warm record from the opening guitar notes of 'I-80'. Hunches have a habit of being right. Squirrel Flower's debut very much feels like a commentary or a dialogue rather than anything overtly preconceived.
Ella O'Connor Williams' debut album as Squirrel Flower is a promising leap to a bigger label (Polyvinyl) that attempts to reach headier places than your typical indie rock record. It's an experiment that does justice to Williams' expanding vocal talent and her poetic way with sound, and it's a bold departure from her previous material. The songwriting, though, suffers from a certain inattention.