Ella Williams, the Massachusetts-born musician who makes music as Squirrel Flower, released her first EP, Early Winter Songs From Middle America, while attending Grinnell College in 2015, and she’s been steadily touring ever since. After graduation, she moved back to Boston to make her way in the DIY scene, and she soon turned heads with stunning back-to-back albums, 2020’s I Was Born Swimming and 2021’s Planet (i), both released through Polyvinyl. She moved to Chicago in 2021, and since then she’s seamlessly settled into the city’s tight-knit music scene, even joining tours with local bands, including Tenci, Mia Joy, and Whitney. Squirrel Flower’s latest single, “Your Love,” is a full-band reimagining of the softer, more stripped-down track “Your Love Is a Disaster” from last year’s Planet EP. Here, Williams steadies herself against the sharp gut punch of new love, her voice careening over fuzzed-out guitar and a punchy drumbeat. Bursting at the seams with layers of vocal harmonies, pedal steel, and a twangy guitar solo from MJ Lenderman, “Your Love” is a nervous reckoning with the pain of love as much as it is a ringing celebration of desire.
Williams’s songs often toe this line, creating a staggering balance between decay and absolute comfort. Through these extremes, she manages to unearth bright, unclouded insights about herself and her most intimate relationships. Onstage, this clarity lends Williams a certain sternness; she often sets her face with a calm and unsmiling reserve. While she holds chaos and catastrophe close in her songs, beneath the surface there’s a taut and aching longing for connection, no matter the price. To love is to face the sharpest razor’s edge, but Williams convinces us that the risk is worth it. How far would you go to feel close to someone again?
Squirrel Flower Dearly Somber and Soft and Dumb open. Thu 1/26, 9 PM, Sleeping Village, $20, $18 in advance. 21+