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Squirrel Flower - Planet (i) (Album Review)

Tuesday, 06 July 2021 Written by Huw Baines

As any artists’ career picks up speed there is a sense of things coming into focus—of rough edges being sanded smooth—and yet it’s rare that the listener is able to share in that process almost as it happens. But with only 18 months separating it from Squirrel Flower’s debut LP, ‘I Was Born Swimming’, that is the lasting impact of spinning the excellent ‘Planet (i)’.

Here Ella Williams appears as a more rounded, more confident songwriter, pushing melody to the front of the conversation and allowing her voice to cut through the noise in exciting, unpredictable ways.

Squirrel Flower’s music has a questing quality to it, with the knotty guitars of midwest emo jutting out into warm indie-folk, but by shoring up her hooks Williams has provided an important anchor point. 

The patient opener, I’ll Go Running, is a prime example of this mechanism—its power patiently builds layer by layer but its chorus is transposed seamlessly into each new setting. For the listener, the process is extremely gratifying. It’s a neat bit of classing songcraft that allows for surging dynamic shifts elsewhere.

This is reflected back by lyrics that lead a double life, crossing large-scale concepts (the body as planet, personal as universal, disaster both within and without) with lines that feel like they might have been lifted wholesale from a diary or a letter that’s mouldered in a drawer for too long, its questions unanswered.

The cumulative effect is a record that feels massive. Its quieter moments, such as the gorgeous intro to Big Beast, are carried by cut-glass vocals and lingering hurt, but a crushing wash of distortion and arresting hook should be right around the corner. Everything might be broken, but it feels like Squirrel Flower has arrived right on time.

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