Published Jan 29, 2020On her debut album as Squirrel Flower, Ella O'Connor Williams explores a state of mind where escaping from obscurity and into the unknown develops into a shapelessness that surrounds us and clouds our awareness of what's in front of us. I Was Born Swimming has a starkness that is cut through by expansive poeticism and Williams' encompassing, dignified vocals.
Much like Mitski, Williams sings in broad, confident strokes, with her soaring peaks emphasized by tempered instrumentals, solidifying in heavily gnarled guitars that drift into streaks of agitation. On lead single "Red Shoulder," William's guitar explodes into swampy alt-country riff, lapping onto itself in a deluge of slow-filtered elegance. The anxious stomp on "Slapback" is timid at first, but daringly empowering as Williams' raw, angelic voice is punctuated by her sinister acoustic guitar during its peak.
Williams' sense of space is sophisticated, and I Was Born Swimming wavers gracefully between restlessness and restfulness. "Eight Hours" and "Headlights" are sparse songs with slender guitar flourishes that lift Williams' melodic decorum into peace of mind. While I Was Born Swimming never goes into the unfamiliar, Williams' gushing charm is more than comforting enough to feel what it's like to exist somewhere in between destinations. (Polyvinyl)