‘How To Grow A Sunflower Underwater’: Alex The Astronaut’s Silver-Lining On A Silver Platter
It’s hard to stay afloat in a world that’s aiming to drown you, and when your limbs give out it’s even harder to try. But when the fathomless waters brace you for the end, the fearlessly authentic, Alex the Astronaut, reminds you how to swim. In her sophomore record, How To Grow A Sunflower Underwater, the 26 year old LGBTQ+ trailblazer of entrancing indie-folk-pop expresses her incredibly relatable feelings of love, friendship, and battles with acceptance in ways we as humans are reluctant to admit. Released on July 22nd, the Australia-based lyricist brought us our silver-lining on a silver platter with a record of post-traumatic growth meets under the sea.
Produced by Miro Mackie, Sam Cromack, Dean Hanson, Dan Hanson, and of course the Astronaut herself, the eclectic union materialized the simplicity of the records conception. “I’d written a couple of songs that were far more vulnerable than anything I’d done before, and I started to see that I needed to keep being that vulnerable if I wanted to make something that contributed to the world,” she says, sparking the intensity for her universal memoir.
As simple as the title may seem, its inception was nothing short of complex. Submerged beneath the foam with nothing but goggles, a snorkel, and a moment of silence, Alex turned the lucidity of her surroundings into a never-ending thought. The contiguity of peaceful, breathing colors beneath the surface of the frays of humanity begged the question of how to persevere. Alex wanted clarity towards optimism, not only for herself, but for those living in the impending and burdening doubt–and she brilliantly delivered.
With equal parts self-awareness, curiosity and humor, the record received praise from the likes of Rolling Stone, NPR, BBC Radio, and many more upon its release–coining the musical narrative as “remarkably refreshing and uplifting.” It would not be too far off as to say this is her piece-de-resistance, her remarkable gift of a guiding hand towards understanding yourself in a world that doesn’t understand you.
With subjects of raw intensity unraveled throughout, Alex the Astronaut weaved buoyancy between the lines of authenticity, gentle reminders of the joys of being alive. As if watching a coming of age film, the first track “Growing Up” is a piece of nostalgia. It’s softened plucks carefully caress your brain just as her piercingly thin guitar riffs amid the metamorphosis. With both a classic feel and a modern edge, “Growing Up” gathers the universal thoughts of adulthood between a metaphorically balanced monologue of questions revealing that, in reality no one has any idea what they’re doing.
Ironically, as tensions attenuate instrumentally, Alex digs deeper into her psyche with the following track “Haunted.” In a playful introduction that discusses the NYC elite via ‘Desperate Housewives’ Alex begins unrooting her feelings of starting fresh in a world where her problems are one step behind. With brain itching musical surrenders, her synth covered guitar and satirical lyricism reference feelings far too familiar but necessarily comfortable– and in turn, a lesson is learned.
Similar to the previous track, “Octopus” puts an optimistic spin on a heavy weighing subject. The critically acclaimed record treads the waters between playful and profound amid a burst of bubbles and intoxicating pop punches. As we enter the world of the album’s creation, Alex finds peace with her recent diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder–in the mirroring tendencies of natural creatures. Behind a jumping beat that matches the speed of the sea, Alex‘s tender balladry speaks lines of enlightenment. “I think I’m like an octopus sometimes/Trying so hard to blend in/I forgot that I have something I could give,” she says, making peace with the nuances of her confusion. It’s both poignant and prevalent–a song that stretches beyond the masses.
The stream of consciousness builds upon a mellow maturation on the accurately titled fourth track “Airport.” Brilliantly and wittingly she dissects the fragility of time and the wall it builds around comfortability. “I was seeing that separation all around and experiencing it myself,” says Alex during a press release, “and I wanted to write about what happens when you meet up with someone you care about after such a long time, and all the pressure that comes with that.” Sprinkled by the hands of Daniel Chase‘s heavenly harmonic strings, “Airport” dances between minor feelings of desire and apprehensions with love and security.
In a Phoebe Bridgers-esque melodrama timbre, “Sick” is the album’s melancholic seed. Dropping the metaphors, Alex displays to message behind this track in flashing lights. In an homage to a family member suffering from a terminal illness, she used this track as her diary. Any thoughts, feelings, experiences had during this time found their way between the gentle plucks of her acoustics. In a spirited transition amid a collection of horned instruments paired with her honest lyricism, “South London” is a hop-filled memory of her childhood. Getting a glimpse inside her youth, Alex reminisces on her life in South London in comparison to what she became. In a clever bellow “And so much stays/and so much changes” brings us into the picture, creating a universal understanding of growing up and moving out.
The record’s denouement, “Haircut,” makes the struggles worth fighting against. This incredibly transparent track discusses the feelings of expression through the eyes of those who feel sheltered. Becoming fully recognized by her authentic form, Alex paid tribute to her triumph through a collection of folky-catastrophic hues in a catapult of confidence. Mixing chaos with comfort, “Haircut” is the staple in her discography and How To Grow A Sunflower Underwater is her magnum opus.
Listen to the bubbling-rumination here, now available on all streaming platforms!
Full track list below:
1. Growing Up
6. South London
7. Ride My Bike
8. To Be Something Good
9. Northern Lights