Squirrel Flower: I Was Born Swimming (Polyvinyl) - review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, February 21st, 2020  

Squirrel Flower

I Was Born Swimming

Polyvinyl

Feb 11, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Movement saturates the full-length debut from Squirrel Flower, the recording persona of Ella O'Connor Williams. It's a very physical movement where she might "cruise the turnpike" on "Eight Hours," later "driving through a wooded valley" in "Headlights." Yet it comes without losing sight of the miles travelled internally.

The divide between internal and external is summed up neatly in the first line of opening track "I-80," Williams kicking things off singing "I tried to be lyrical/but lyrics failed me." Lyrics rarely fail her over the course of the record, searching descriptions mingling with vivid images, like the "bugs in the streetlight" during "Streetlight Blues," a sight reserved for the narrator busy blowing off a party.

All of this often grows into gentle waves of electric guitar and thumping percussion, elegant folk compositions amplified in ways that don't always work. With levels ratcheted up, the subtler elements fall away, caught in the swirling mix. There is sometimes a sense that a little too much is going on. More turns into less, walking the opposite path to the sparsely effective lyrics.

If the success ratio is mixed, it still contains enough hits. "Headlights" is a thing of delicate beauty, "Red Shoulder" a much more amped up, aching beauty, a prototype for the sound Williams can find. But solid songcraft can't fully cover cracks, space opening between moments of ascendency and stretches that reach for something more without ever quite finding it.

I Was Born Swimming tinkers around the edges of feeling without always plotting a clear way in. It's never an unpleasant experience, often moving. But the dots don't entirely connect. (www.squirrelflower.net)

Author rating: 6/10

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Average reader rating: 6/10



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