Jan 04, 2023
By Caleb Campbell
Photography by Ash Dye
Chicago indie folk outfit Ester first formed in 2017 as the full-band project of singer/songwriter Anna Holmquist. Since then, the band released a contemplative debut with their 2018 record, Curtains, and followed in 2020 with their visceral follow-up, Turn Around. Though the pandemic slowed their momentum, Holmquist has been honing their craft of unflinchingly honest songwriting, steadily writing and recording new music in the intervening years. Today, they’re back with their first release of the year, “Red Rover,” along with the track’s accompanying B-side, “Change Is Allowed,” premiering with Under the Radar.
The first of the two tracks, “Red Rover,” is a lonesome indie folk effort, combining dreamy synths, loping acoustic guitar, and soulful strings arrangements with Holmquist’s crystalline vocals. Meanwhile, the lyrics reflect on early lockdown loneliness, tinged with longing and nostaligia一“Maybe this is all an April Fool / And tomorrow I can see you…Come on over / Over, red rover.” In contrast, “Change Is Allowed” is a more relaxed and meditative track. Glassy ornate harmonies and fingerpicked guitar lines encircle the track, offering a peaceful accompaniment to Holmquist’s lyrics. Here, Holmquist is settled and sanguine, with lyrics finding peace in reminders of imperfection一“You don’t have to save the world right now.”
Ester says of the tracks, “I started recording these tracks on New Year’s Day 2022 with Michael Mac at Bim Bom Studios, who produced, mixed, mastered, and played drums and bass on the recordings. ‘Red Rover’ was written on March 30, 2020, at the start of lockdown when I lived alone and it had really started to sink in that we were in for long months of a strange new loneliness. ‘Change Is Allowed’ came along at some point before that, a meditation on allowing yourself to be small and imperfect, and giving yourself permission to change. Together, the songs are about different kinds of change — the kind you choose, and the kind that is forced on you, neither of which tend to be easy.”
Listen to both tracks below.