Angel Olsen My Woman Jagjaguwar
On 2012’s Half Way Home, Angel Olsen’s sorrow-laden voice was taken at face value, plonking her sound within a country-folk acoustic genre. But then 2014’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness switched up the genre trappings, with the production lo-fi and the guitars grungey. Suddenly, Olsen’s cutting humour and palpable anger came to the fore – lyrics that previously would have seemed sentimental were changed by the knowledge that Angel Olsen simply doesn’t give a fuck.
Burn Your Fire for No Witness presented a laconic Olsen, singing in an intentionally downbeat manner, teething emotion out of barely audible syllables. She sang like a child that had been told a thousand times how pretty her voice is – stubbornly, maybe even insolent. This is not the case with My Woman. Here, Olsen has fallen back in love with her timbre. She jumps around scales, introduces some gorgeous work in the higher registers, and employs a breathiness in Those Were the Days that transcends flirtatiousness. She’s not belting it out of course, but she’s playing with the different textures available to her – she goes from almost loungey in Woman to falteringly emotional in retro rock anthem Shut Up Kiss Me (which benefits exponentially from viewing Olsen perform it, full of sarcasm and self-parody, in the song’s music video).
The record is intended as a classic A/B side, with the particularly moving tracks languishing in the closing act. And here the sunny climes of LA’s Vox Studios are more obvious, with songs like the Fleetwood Mac-indebted Sister given permission to stretch out on a sunlounger and approach the eight-minute mark. Closer Pops, meanwhile, is a sparse piano ballad that could soundtrack an episode of a California teen melodrama. “After it all ends / we’ll be just like friends / Hey, what was that passing us by?” goes the heartbroken lament. And then, the knowing wink of maturity: “Hey, it was only something in my eyes.”