Album Reviews

Alex The Astronaut – How To Grow A Sunflower Underwater

(Nettwerk) UK release date: 22 July 2022

Alexandra Lynn returns with a set of accessible, relatable indie-pop songs with a lot of charm and even more heart

Alex The Astronaut - How To Grow A Sunflower Underwater Alex The Astronaut‘s debut album, The Theory Of Absolutely Nothing, was one of the few great things about the year that was 2020. When it was released in September of that year, it seemed the perfect antidote to months of social isolation and endless headlines about death tolls and illness. Alexandra Lynn’s relentlessly charming songs were a much needed chink of light in an otherwise depressing year.

Two years on, life is beginning to return to some kind of normality, but thankfully Alex The Astronaut’s songs are as buoyant as ever. How To Grow A Sunflower Underwater is more of the same – which is in no way a bad thing. If anything, the songs on her second album are even more immediate and confident, with an added edge given the personal events that Lynn has gone through recently.

For Lynn was diagnosed last year with Level 1 autism, and she also came out as queer the previous year. Both events are explored on How To Grow A Sunflower Underwater, but with a lightness of touch and humour that makes for a quite uplifting listen. Haircut is ostensibly about feeling better after a haircut, but the lyrics tackles identity, feeling comfortable in your own skin and watching 17 seasons of US medical soap Grey’s Anatomy – all set to an uproariously upbeat and catchy song that you can’t help but sing along to.

Lynn sets very comfortably in the storytelling tradition of Australian singer/songwriters – breezy opening track Growing Up recalls both Paul Kelly and The Go-Betweens – but she adds her own unique twist as well. Airport is a lovely track about the anxiety and nervousness of reuniting with an old love, while also managing to admit professional jealousy of Phoebe Bridgers, while Octopus explores her autism, singing of “trying so hard to blend in” and struggling with supermarkets that are too loud.

Although much of How To Grow A Sunflower Underwater is upbeat and catchy, there are some sad, touching moments as well. Sick documents her experience as a full-time carer for a loved one, and it’s a beautiful, poignant ballad that anyone who has seen someone they care for decline will relate to. Haunted covers similar territory, about the stress and trauma that such an experience can create, and how it can be a struggle to get through it, no matter how much camomile tea and breathing exercises you do.

There’s also the knockabout fun of South London, where Lynn tries to square her nostalgic childhood memories of the capital with the city’s darker side – the song’s chorus of “so much stays, and so much changes” is so impassioned it makes you want to jump up and sing along. It’s another good example of how, at only two albums into her career, Lynn has become a master of her craft.

How To Grow A Sunflower Underwater takes the many high points of Lynn’s debut, and builds on them to produce a record that’s even better. If you’re looking for accessible, relatable indie-pop songs with a lot of charm and even more heart, you can’t do much better than Alex The Astronaut.

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More on Alex The Astronaut
Alex The Astronaut – How To Grow A Sunflower Underwater
Alex The Astronaut – The Theory Of Absolutely Nothing