Tough, Smart, Angst-Fueled Guitar-Driven Tunesmithing From Squirrel Flower

by delarue

Singer/guitarist Ella Williams calls herself Squirrel Flower. She rocks harder than most solo songwriters. She doesn’t get fenced in with standard verse/chorus patterns. She uses grit and noise to make a point, in lieu of a generic, conformist indie sound. The songs on her new album Planet (i) – streaming at Bandcamp – are angst-ridden but not mawkish. She hits you upside the head when you least expect it.

She puts the rubber to the road right from the start with I’ll Go Running. The song starts with just a simple hammer-on electric guitar riff and drums, then Williams adds layers until it’s a roaring blaze:

I’m an oil tank getting low
Didn’t listen long enough to know…
Pack it in and push it strong
Pack it up and move along

It seems optimistic. “I’ll be newer than before” is the closing mantra.

The second track, Hurt a Fly is a more standard-issue Lou Reed-style riff-rock tune: once again,  Williams’ guitar grows noisier as she fills in the details in this tale of betrayal.

Deluge in the South goes in the opposite direction, from a tasty acoustic-electric clang to dreamier sonics, even as the flood metaphors grow more ominous:

Storm is coming in, water in the gutter
Underneath your house, drink it undercover

Likewise, Big Beast has early Linda Draper-esque acoustic loopiness and surrealism. Williams picks up her electric and hits the distortion pedal for Roadkill: “Slow down,” is the loaded message as her voice rises from pensiveness to a soaring intensity.

She builds a birds’ nest of wafting nocturnal ambience over steady, close-miked acoustic fingerpicking in Iowa 146. The next track, Pass could be a catchy, hypnotic early 90s Penelope Houston tune.

Distorted, slurry bass anchors the hypnotic, dreampop-tinged Midwestern road narrative Flames and Flat Tires. Williams resurrects the high water imagery in To Be Forgotten, a resolute departure tale.

“I’ve seen the desert now, and I know I want the water,” Williams asserts in the album’s sparest song, Desert Wildflowers: bring on the natural disasters, she insists, she can handle them. With reverb-drenched guitars and vocals rising to a distorted squall, Night is the hardest-rocking track here. Williams closes the album with Starshine, which, as she sees it, can burn you just like the sun. This is a good late-night listen: lots to think about here.