Ella O’Connor Williams has been known as Squirrel Flower since she was a child. The title of her new album, ‘I Was Born Swimming’ alludes to the circumstances of her arrival into the world - born surrounded by amniotic fluid.
Coming from a deeply musical family, Williams also draws on this part of her life - even enlisting her father to play bass on ‘Headlights’. She has spent several years on the Boston DIY circuit, perfecting her craft, but Squirrel Flower’s voice still possesses a certain vulnerability. It is ethereal and haunting, and instantly captures attention on opening track, ‘I-80’.
‘Rush’ draws the listener in further with its melancholic nature and emotional lyrics, while the lyrics of ‘Slapback’ are emotional in another sense - a powerful statement rather than pensive introspection: “If you slap me, I’ll slap you right back”. This statement is sung exuding sheer confidence - it’s pretty clear that Williams isn’t taking sh*t from anyone.
‘Eight Hours’ is ever so slightly slower than the others, with quite an upbeat chorus, it’s a romantic one, contrasting with the visceral ‘Slapback’. ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ - at three minutes and 39 seconds - could almost be mistaken for an instrumental but Williams' vocals do make an appearance towards the end of the track. It’s unexpected, but fits perfectly onto the project.
In ‘Home’, Squirrel Flower once again evokes strong emotions again with her lyrics - “ You take me back home and carry me inside/When I’ve fallen asleep on the road” - making for an album highlight. The title track is only one minute 36 seconds long, but it’s enchanting. Intensely poetic, it carries an emotional depth, along with continued imagery - “Can you see me shimmer?” - while with ‘I Was Born Swimming’, she looks again to her origin to inspire her future.
For the most part, ‘I Was Born Swimming’ is a stripped-down album with folk tendencies. The arrangements are light and natural, allowing Squirrel Flower’s strong vocals and fierce guitar-playing shine. Hard to ignore, her voice is glorious and rich, and her music intoxicating. ‘I Was Born Swimming’ is an intense journey to take with its creator, but it envelops entirely. You are where she is, you feel as she does.
Words: Narzra Ahmed
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