Angel Olsen

My Woman

Written by: MIN on 26/04/2017 13:38:50

It happens to me every year: an album that passes me by right up until Roskilde Festival announces them and opens my eyes to the artist’s music. By now, I can hardly keep count of the names I’ve grown to like through that festival. This time around, Angel Olsen’s phenomenal “My Woman” is that album. Sure, I’d hummed along to the radio-friendly “Shut Up Kiss Me” when it’d been played on various alternative radio stations, but not until immersing myself fully in her newest album did I realize just how much talent pours out of Olsen. Twisting its way through upbeat acoustics, synth- or piano-driven ballads and blistering guitar performances — perfectly aided by Olsen’s powerful voice — “My Woman” is an album that should’ve made it to my end of the year list this past January.

The album sees Angel Olsen walk a fine line between artistic integrity and mainstream popularity without fully giving in to the latter. Sure, the aforementioned single “Shut Up Kiss Me” receives plenty of airtime but it’s on Olsen’s own conditions, as the grungy, Courtney Barnett-like guitar constantly simmers beneath the lyrics about push-and-pull-relationships. “Never Be Mine” is the kind of song you would hear in every teenage bedroom back in the ‘90s but the acoustic strumming mixed with Olsen’s yearning voice is quite simply breathtaking and makes for one of the album’s definite highlights: He wants to know why // he wants to know why // I only want to know you // I want to tell him // I know the feeling // This time I swear that I do”.

As evidenced above, the lyrics throughout mainly focus on past and unhealthy relationships, how hard they are to leave behind and how you always remember them through rose-red glasses. However, Olsen also ventures into stranger and, surprisingly, more personal topics, too, with a song like “Sister” telling the story of how she dreamed up a sister of her own in her sleep. With a mystified, Stevie Nicks-style approach to her vocal delivery, Olsen sways above a more relaxed soundscape in a song that marks a noticeable change of pace compared to the rest of the record. Both “Sister” and “Woman” are lengthier 7-minute pieces that linger somewhere between Fleetwood Mac and the more laid-back jam sessions of The Grateful Dead. The songs slowly build up into climaxes that see Olsen’s vocals taking on new heights and her playing breathtaking guitar solos. In the end of “Sister”, it almost feels like a metamorphosis when the song, during and after its catharsis, finishes off with the line, ”All my life I thought I’d change” repeated several times.

Vocally, the songs are perfectly executed, with Olsen ranging from soft, off-key whispers (on the aforementioned “Pops”) to loud howls (by the end of the rocking “Not Gonna Kill You”). The instruments flow flawlessly between quiet passages and louder, raucous segments, and the lyrics make sure you’re constantly invested in Olsen’s stories, which feel more like being taken by the hand and led into her mind than random love stories. By the time the album wraps itself up with its final line, ”I’ll be the thing that lives in the dream when it’s gone”, in the haunting piano-piece “Pops”, your heart can only take so much more. Indeed, Angel Olsen’s “My Woman” is emotionally draining, but at the same time life-affirming, because you feel like she’s grown personally over the course of the album’s ten songs — as if soul-searching through music was the cure for mental conflict. And how many of us cannot relate to that?

Download: Never Be Mine, Shut Up Kiss Me, Sister, Woman
For the fans of: Courtney Barnett, Laura Stevenson, Stevie Nicks, Mitski, Neko Case
Listen: Facebook

Release date 02.09.2016

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