Angel Olsen’s music haunts me. But, it is a pleasantly intoxicating possession. Whether recorded or live*, her voice is filled with legions of stories and emotions, a missive from another time and land untrodden but all too familiar. Somewhere between a rustic America(na) long left abandoned in our dominant urban culture and a seductive siren’s call, Olsen weaves a spell of nostalgia and longing for a purer, simpler sound and world.
* Seeing Angel perform last year at The Hideout was totally spellbinding; if she visits your town run don’t walk to the box office (tour dates here).
Working in the realm between Folk, Americana, and mid-Century Country, Olsen’s music is not easily classified by “genre” but by the deliberate and disarming languid and contemplative nature of her compositions punctuated by her (aforementioned) vocals that flow between arresting, entrancing, ethereal, and, even, ghostly. Olsen’s full length debut, Half Way Home was a jaw dropping and hauntingly beautiful dream of an album — one that finds itself on my speakers with regularity. On the followup, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, Olsen continues to explore the landscape of atmospheric Americana/Folk while revving up the pace and pushing towards a more uptempo, almost rock sound. Like its predecessor, Burn Your Fire is undeniably intimate and honest, yet there is careful craftsmanship throughout evidenced by the juxtaposition of musically disparate styles or the constant manipulation* of Olsen’s vocals in the mix (in terms of foregrounding, reverb, etc, not “doctoring”; it’s all real). However it is also fabulously ragged, raw, and raucous. The album is a vibrant and dynamic being. Where many records are meticulously crafted to a musician’s exacting standards creating an almost museum-like refinement, Burn Your Fire… allows the listener into its world to wonder, relate, and melt into. It is pensive, angry, and riotous, kicking and screaming with life and inviting the listener to add the smoldering flames of their experience to its emotional bonfire.
For the past week, Burn Your Fire has been playing incessantly on my headphones and in my head, it has provided solace and inspired contemplation. Like the sailor’s seduced at sea, it has mesmerized and enrapt my psyche by its enchanting allure. No doubt, I have just begun to unravel the countless mysteries and layers contained within.
Listen here: Burn Your Fire For No Witness
A definite run to your local record store pick up or direct from the artist here.
marginalia/for what it’s worth
“White Fire” is gorgeous, smoldering track (listen below)
But “Lights Out” and “Windows” feel like the record’s stand-out, show stopping numbers for this listener that I cannot wait to see live.
For me, there is a decidedly 60s psychedelic rock undercurrent to this record – a sort of early era Grace Slick on Jefferson Airplane.