“My Woman” is sent from above
Angel Olsen’s third release furthers the songwriter as a force in independent music. | radiouted.com
This has been quite the year for artists and their synthesizers. From Porches abandoning bare bones rock in favor of moody dance tracks to Local Natives paving over their once-folky selling point, the idea of guitar-based music as the defining factor in independent rock appears increasingly on the decline.
Regardless, it did come as somewhat of a surprise when singer-songwriter Angel Olsen debuted the single “Intern” at the start of the summer. An elegant ballad basked in the dreamy aroma of an ‘80s film credits, Olsen’s vocals whisk over the synth bass and neon-kissed keys in a fashion simply cinematic.
After a period of shock, acceptance and finally appreciation, it came as more of a surprise when the second single, “Shut Up Kiss Me,” surfaced. The song maintained the newfound production quality of “Intern” while fully embracing Olsen’s illustrious past, evoking the gritty, merely lo-fi spirit of the 2014 breakthrough “Burn Your Fire for No Witness.” With a chorus that burrows a residency in one’s mind and refuses to leave for days, “Shut Up Kiss Me” did away with any preconceived expectations of what “My Woman” would contain — beside some grand incarnation of musical prowess.
Simply put, splendor is too modest of a word for that which is “My Woman,” an album that bridges the gap somewhere between the distorted bliss of Best Coast and the grandiose melodies of Fleetwood Mac. Above all though, “My Woman” will surely become the definitive work of the Asheville-based singer-songwriter. More ever before, “My Woman” fully realizes Olsen’s songwriting: sharp and to the point when needed most, but dreamily contemplative when the moment calls for it.
“Not Gonna Kill You” strikes as an immediate highlight, a song which features an angsty, impassioned croon that would make Morrissey do a double-take. All the while, fuzzed out, wobbly guitars drone on, before coming face-to-face with the delicate folk of “Heart Shaped Face.”
“Sister,” on the other hand, another standout, clocks in at nearly eight minutes, starting as a gently-picked serenade before searing guitar breaks through the cracks of the earlier-established foundation, setting off a sensory overload akin to the most dramatic of firework shows. The mostly-whispered “Those Were The Days” — a tale of fading love — starts off with a set of jazzy, reverb-laden chords that sound oddly reminiscent of King Krule, while “Pops” concludes the LP with its most bare and heartbreaking composition.
One cannot listen to “My Woman” without the realization Angel Olsen does not pen songs for intimate, hushed audiences anymore, regardless of how somber certain songs may come across. As her recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert indicates, the tracks of this album exude a self-awareness only found through years of trial, error and refinement.