The album begins with ‘I-80’, where Squirrel Flower, real name Ella Williams, demonstrates her impeccable vocals, accompanied by some mellow-sounding guitar. The song is well done, I can’t find any technical reasons to not like it, but something about it doesn’t work for me. Perhaps I’ve heard too much like it before, but as the first track on a debut album, it does little to excite me, even with the energy displayed in the album’s first half, such as in ‘Red Shoulder’. Barring a few favourites this appears to be a symptom that the whole album suffers from.
Don’t get me wrong, as a debut record, I Was Born Swimming, definitely has a unique sound and some stand-out tracks. ‘Slapback’ and ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ featured some rustic ambient guitar and vocals that are definitely going into my playlists.
The album's title track is a good song, but adds only to the one or two notes that the album's tone hits
The second half of the album becomes much more mellow, with some honeyed country flares in Williams’ vocals, especially in ‘Home’ and ‘Rush’, but while these demonstrate great musical ability, the songs become stale upon multiple listens. ‘Belly of the City’ becomes very ambient indeed, featuring a very sparse sound space. The album concludes with its title track, featuring some grittier folk guitar coupled with Williams’ signature ambient and serene vocals. It’s a good song, but adds only to the one or two notes that the album’s tone hits.
With this album and a couple of EPs under belt now, Squirrel Flower has very much established her style at this point, and I’m worried that this is all she’s capable of. While a very good technical album, I feel there’s very little I’ve heard before. I’d love to hear what comes of this artist in the coming decade, if only to see her challenge and develop her style.
2 out of 5