Squirrel Flower’s sophomore album, Planet (i), threads the listener into a quilt of apocalyptic landscapes and hazy fantasies beyond capitalist ruins. Flower, whose real name is Ella Williams, reimagines her typical theatrics to situate us in a destruction-fueled planet. It’s as if Thelma and Louise were driving top-down through the blood-covered dunes in Mad Max: Fury Road.
Willams previously revealed that to conquer her fears she had to embody them. From there, her planet was born. The land she cultivates in Planet (i) absorbs isolation and transforms it into flames and fury. Willams arms herself with the tools needed to be a deity on her planet.
The album’s first song “I’ll Go Running” rises with the heat of a cinematic cold open. Here, Williams is both the outlaw and hero of her story. She enraptures the listener with a promise that she will run as she sings, “I’ll be newer than before.” The thrashing of guitar and drums swell, her voice blisters and she repeats this mantra. It feels as though she’s internalizing this promise for herself instead of an audience. She sets herself forward on a path and interlocks with unknown territory.
There is an urgent motion that skates around the beginning of the album. The third track “Deluge in the South” finally arrives at a resting place where we lazily spill our bodies out in the open air. Williams softens.
“I tried the best I could to paint the house and forgive you,” she sings. The tenants within her emotional terrains need tending to and Williams addresses that here. She nurtures her vulnerability in these pockets of stillness. Offering to tie your friend’s shoe or painting a house for your loved one are small acts of necessary tenderness.
This sentiment layers on top of the minimalist, acoustic track “Iowa 146.” She whispers as if sharing a secret with a moth. A being she needs to address with grave delicacy. She croons, “As you played me guitar I watched it fall away.” For the first time on the album, Williams relinquishes control. And as she allotts herself the space to receive care, the world of fears that lived within her began to dissolve.
However, she does not sleep in a space of vulnerability for too long as she is back on the road and wrathfully singing, “This car won’t drive the way I want” in “Flames in Flat Tires.” If her planet is a reflection of emotions then the vehicle may be the way she outwardly conveys these emotions, bringing them to different figures and places along the path. But even in a world of her own, she still faces communication breakage.
The genius of this album is in its communal nature. The songs speak to and give context to one another. Tracks later in the album impact the meaning of earlier songs as Williams constructs a world existing outside of traditional temporality.
This planet congeals opposing forces of intimacy and Williams takes her time exploring each corner. Planet (i) is a home built for Squirrel Flower and we all have the privilege of peering into it.
Essential Tracks: “Iowa 146,” “Flames and Flat Tires” and “I’ll Go Running”
Prerequisites: Laura Stevensons’ The Big Freeze, Sun June’s Somewhere and Indigo Sparke’s Echo