How to Grow a Sunflower Underwater
Few artists do relatable as well as Alex the Astronaut. “I moved into a new house this week/There’s still 47 boxes but we set up our TV,” she sings on “Haunted.” The singer-songwriter is also one of the most original lyricists around—witness the opening line of “Octopus” (a song inspired by her autism diagnosis): “Have I told you about octopuses’ skin? They change their color with chromatophores.” In Alex’s hands, however, such exercises in the mundanity of everyday life (and octopus biology) often give way to deeply personal revelations that can stun. Her work as a caretaker informs the devastating “Sick” (“I can’t wipe the tears from your eyes/I can’t tell you you’ll be fine/How could I tell that lie?”), while “Airport” ponders the emotional pressure of being reunited with a partner after a period of forced separation due to COVID (“When I hold you, will it feel the same?”). With the album’s title inspired by Alex’s fondness for snorkeling during lockdown—the sunflower reference represents the search for positivity in dark times—tracks such as “Growing Up” and “Something Good” find the songwriter embellishing her trademark mix of indie and folk with a kaleidoscopic melange of lush strings and percussion, all under the watchful eyes of co-producers (and Ball Park Music members) Sam Cromack and Dan and Dean Hanson. It makes for a record that’s as sonically detailed as it is emotionally complex.