Chicago-based singer-songwriter Ella Williams recently announced her third album as Squirrel Flower, and ahead of the fall release of Tomorrow’s Fire (Oct. 13, Polyvinyl Record Co.), she’s shared a new single (and music video) from the LP, the Bruce Springsteen-inspired “Alley Light.”
Though the light touch of Squirrel Flower’s 2020 full-length debut I Was Born Swimming earned her the “indie folk” label, she’s slowly, steadily twisted the volume knob ever since, and there’s no mistaking “Alley Light” for anything but rock ’n’ roll. It opens with a serrated guitar riff doubled up by Williams and Tomorrow’s Fire engineer Alex Farrar (Wednesday, Indigo de Souza, Snail Mail)—meanwhile, in the video (dir. Weird Life Productions), a blowtorch cuts the track’s title into a sheet of metal, a spot-on synchronization of sight and sound. As the song unspools, Williams stalks the streets of her windy city, scheming while sparks fly in artist Gwen Yen Chiu’s studio.
The narrator of “Alley Light” is trapped in a town that’s wasting away, with little but love and a “beat up car” to his name. “She looks so pretty tonight / Blue dress in the alley light / I was gonna take her out tonight / But all her favorite spots closed down,” Williams sings, evoking rusted-out Americana and star-crossed love, the magic and the mundane, all in the same few breaths. Dave Hartley and Matt McCaughan’s low end put a warmth in the song’s belly much like a slug of whiskey would, but it’s Williams’ lyricism that shines the brightest, evoking the doomed hope of a uniquely American dream. “The songs I write are not always autobiographical,” Williams says in press notes for her new album, “but they’re always true.”
- Stream “Alley Light”
“This song is about the man in me, or a man who I love, or a man who is a stranger to me,” Williams says of “Alley Light” in a statement. “The video references a neo-noir Chicago heist movie where they use this thermal metal contraption to cut into a safe. They run around the city making sparks fly and getting up to no good. I wanted to do all that.”
After a stand-alone hometown show on Aug. 24, Squirrel Flower embarks on a fall headlining tour starting in the U.S. in mid-October, then going international before returning to the States in 2024. (The band comes closest to Jacksonville with a Feb. 12 show in Atlanta, for those keeping score at home.) Tickets are on sale now.
You can hear new music from Squirrel Flower, and music from local, regional, national and international artists on our music discovery station The Independent 89.9 HD4. And you can follow our Fresh Squeeze playlist on Spotify to stream all the best new music, updated every month.