“All my friends are at the party/But I’ve got other plans,” Ella O’Connor Williams, the indie singer-songwriter who records as Squirrel Flower, tells us on “Streetlight Blues.” If those plans involved heading home to write this song, it was alone-time well-spent. Williams grew up in Boston and went to college in Grinnell, Iowa, and she’s about to release her debut LP, I Was Born Swimming, which will be a boon for fans of self-delving artists like Lucy Dacus, Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker, and Mitski.
Williams titled a 2015 EP, recorded when she was 19, Early Winter Songs From Middle America, and you can hear that sense of lonely Midwestern expansiveness on “Streetlight Blues.” Her lovely folk-toned voice stretches out over gravelly guitar and steel guitar, suggesting her own new twist on the kind of small-town country-punk Uncle Tupelo invented on No Depression. Her lyrics key off the doomed, humid image of bugs flying into streetlights, swirling toward death, using it as a metaphor for other kinds of endings — seasonal, personal, romantic, and so on, creating her own swirling atmosphere of ambivalent catharsis.
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