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Squirrel Flower - "Contact Sports" | Album Review

by Eli Shively (@shivelyeli)
Ella Williams’ music may rest firmly in the “soft and sad singer-songwriter” category, but it’s never one dimensional in being. On her project Squirrel Flower’s latest release Contact Sports, Williams drifts from headspace to headspace, at times defiant, helpless and unabashedly in love — and always touchingly human.
Contact Sports’ six tracks serve as an exploration of Williams’ own experiences and character rather than some sort of external person or force, and by turning the lens inward she creates lyrical motifs that are equal parts vulnerable and empowering. Opener “Not Your Prey” shows her unwavering confidence in the face of an outside danger — “But if you touch me I won’t be still/ You’re no predator, I’m not your prey/ I’m not your kill,” she declares, reassuring herself of her own strength and resolve.
While other spots on the record may come across as more helpless and distressed, Williams never loses her sense of honesty, instead wielding her deeply emotional confessions as her only defense against the sense of loneliness and powerlessness that plague her throughout each song. Time and time again she fearlessly states “I am,” she professes love even when faced a torturous relationship on “Heavy” and proudly belts feelings of grand uncertainty on the standout “Midwestern Clay.” 
The instrumentation and subject matter on each track all at the very least project an underlying sense of darkness, but Williams’s sharp vocal cuts through everything else on the recording and demands to be heard — symbolically fighting off her demons with grace and aplomb. It’s captivating, addictive even, and gives Contact Sports the strength to demand repeat listens.
In short, Ella Williams has made a powerful record. At times drawing from its sparse sense of musicality and other times from its strong assertion of purpose, the total package here is one that’s simply not to be missed.