Angel Olsen Phases Jagjaguwar
Angel Olsen keeps falling in love with the idea of love, and it’s not working out. 2016’s double-sided LP, My Woman, had strut and charisma by the bucketload via a rockier A-side, and heart and tenderness steeped into its slower B-side. Phases is a collection of demos and rarities culled from the past ten years of Olsen’s work, and it leans hard into her more emotionally explorative, dreamier side, ever-widening the door into Olsen’s favourite themes: loneliness, longing, and hard-earned realisations about love and life.
The album opens with the languorous stomp of Fly on Your Wall. Olsen’s voice is gauzy, detached, and wavering with emotion.“It’s only real in my mind,” she howls, as she considers the crushing disappointment of a spectral relationship. The longest song on the album by far is second track Special, featuring another disappointed Olsen – she wants to be enough (“want to be special, just like your mother”) for her presumed lover. Dripping guitars are overlaid with psychedelic reverb.
It’s a dense, gripping beginning that commands your attention – a contrast to the acoustic demos that are to follow. Across the remaining, strummed-out songs, it’s hard not to be reminded of country pioneers like Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette and Emmylou Harris. Olsen’s voice quivers as she trips up and down scales, decrying failed former lovers and testing out new ones, and her front porch ruminations are overwhelmingly touching.
Reaching the final song, Endless Road, it becomes clear that after pinning her hopes on one worthless would-be suitor after another, Olsen’s idea of love has been tamped down into a more realistic ambition: love for herself, and the road she’s on now. “Every road will lead me home,” she sings, and by this point, it’s impossible not to follow her.