How do you grow up and grow old in a world you’re not sure will exist (habitably, anyway) by the time you reach your dotage? That’s the question hanging over the latest album from Squirrel Flower. Singer-songwriter Ella Williams has crafted a noir-meets-apocalypse soundscape for Tomorrow’s Fire while asking if we’re never going to grow old, why not just stay young and absorb every bit of life while it’s happening?
That sense of swirling in the moment is evident from Tomorrow’s Fire’s first track, “i don’t use a trash can.” A slightly evolved version of Williams’ first song as Squirrel Flower, the singer stacks gorgeous vocals over minimal guitar and keys while striving to hold on to the dreamiest of trysts – “I’m not gonna change my sheets/I’m not gonna clean the floor/I’ll never wash my hands.” That reverie is interrupted by, well, life in “Full Time Job,” a guitar-driven screed against settling for the expected – “Never wanted to be someone’s wife/Give up my whole life.”
Williams managed to assemble an impressive best-of-indie band for Tomorrow’s Fire, including guitarist Jake Lenderman (who plays in Wednesday and also records his own music as MJ Lenderman) and bassist Dave Hartley (The War on Drugs), plus co-producer/multi-instrumentalist Alex Farrar. The power of this band is felt most deeply on “When A Plant Is Dying,” which begins as a haunting cry out against late-stage capitalism – “There must be more to life/Than being on time/These days it takes a sunrise/To remember you’re alive” – before devolving into a wash of guitars, as Williams and Lenderman are joined by Seth Kaufman.
“Alley Light,” meanwhile, spotlights Williams as a storyteller. The narrator, who’s the kind of guy who never gets a break, even as hard as he might try to please his girl – “I was gonna take her out tonight/But all her favorite spots closed down” – while knowing that, ultimately, life has set him up to fail – “Will she find another man who can take her there/When my drive burns out?” That kind of fatalism extends to album capper “Finally Rain,” which hints at environmental disaster – “A spill in Michigan/In your backyard/Bubbles in the pond where you/Grew up.” Williams’ answer to the end times? Stay young – “If this is what it means to be alive/I won’t grow up” – as long as you can. Does it solve the unsolvable problems? Of course not. But it might be the sanest response imaginable.
Song I Can’t Wait to Hear Live: While “Alley Light” is my favorite song on the record, the guitar storm on “When A Plant Is Dying” is one of the most thrilling musical moments of the year.
Tomorrow’s Fire was produced by Ella Williams and Alex Farrar. Musicians on the record include Williams (vocals, guitar, keys, bass), Farrar (drums, guitar, keys, bass), Jake Lenderman (guitar), Dave Hartley (bass), Matt McCaughan (drums, percussion), Seth Kaufman (guitar), Ethan Baechtold (piano) and Nate Williams (field recording).
Go here to order Tomorrow’s Fire (out October 13): https://www.polyvinylrecords.com/store/squirrel_flower
Check out tour dates here: https://www.squirrelflower.net/home/#tour