105.5 The Colorado Sound & Indie 102.3 present Squirrel Flower with Goon and Lu Lagoon on Tuesday, January 23rd.
Less than an hour south of Chicago, along the shores of Lake Michigan, sits the Indiana Dunes, a protected expanse of shoreline recently designated a National Park. When Ella Williams first visited the Dunes, she was awed by the juxtaposition of its natural splendor within the surrounding industrial corridor of Northwest Indiana. “Every time I go there, it changes my life,” she says, without a hint of hyperbole. “You stand in the marshlands and to your left is a steel factory belching fire and to your right is a nuclear power plant.” Across the water, Chicago waits, its glistening towers made possible by the same steel forged here. For as long as she’s been making music, Ella Williams’ songs have been products of the environments they’re written in, born out of the same world they so vividly hold a mirror to. This environment is where her magnetic new album, Tomorrow’s Fire, lives.
Before Tomorrow’s Fire, Squirrel Flower might’ve been labeled something like “indie folk,” but this is a rock record, made to be played loud. As if to signal this shift, the album opens with the soaring “i don’t use a trashcan,” a re-imagining of the first ever Squirrel Flower song. Williams returns to her past to demonstrate her growth as an artist and to nod to those early shows, when her voice, looped and minimalistic, had the power to silence a room.
Tomorrow’s Fire might sound like the title of an apocalypse album, but it’s not. Tomorrow’s Fire references the title of a novel Williams’ great-grandfather Jay wrote about a troubadour, named for a line by the Medieval French poet Rutebeuf, a troubadour himself: “Tomorrow’s hopes provide my dinner/ Tomorrow’s fire must warm tonight.” Centuries on, the quote spoke to Williams, who describes the fire as a tool to wield in the face of nihilism. Tomorrow’s Fire is what we take solace in, what we know will make us feel okay in the morning, how we light the path we’re walking on.
Closing track “Finally Rain” speaks to the ambiguity of being a young person staring down climate catastrophe. The last verse is an homage to Williams’ relationship with her loved ones — ‘We won’t grow up.’ A stark realization, but also a manifesto. To be resolutely committed to a life of not ‘growing up,’ not losing our wonder while we’re still here.