There is more to Angel Olsen
than meets the eye, or ear for that matter. After 2014's stark stunner Burn Your Fire for No Witness
, she catapulted to the top of indie rock's cool list, but still found herself colored by the pigeon-holing, patronizing tag of the "sad songstress." She not only sheds that tag with her latest, greatest effort My Woman
, but shreds it with a bracing, beautiful collection of songs and sounds that not only tell stories of sadness, but silver linings.
Opener "Intern" functions as both a perfect intro and a red herring. Its droning synths lace Olsen's lyrics of determination with Lynch
-ian atmosphere unlike anything she's ever done on record before. It signals that she's not resting on her reputation while sounding like nothing that follows it. From there, the record cycles through tales of love both unrequited ("Never Be Mine") and unrelenting ("Shut Up Kiss Me"), filtering them through silver-age girl group pop, classic country rock, and gangly garage riffs worthy of Kurt Cobain
. The video for "Shut Up..." even features her donning a silver tinsel wig that manages to echo the alluring artifice of Dolly Parton
--an admitted influence--while also enforcing the notion that the Olsen performing isn't always the one her audience is projecting.
The sharp, succinct, first half of My Woman
sets the table for the far more expansive, no less exquisite back half. The songs stretch well past the seven minute mark, and Olsen's storytelling strengthens with more space to move. On the breathtaking "Sister," Olsen conveys albums' worth of self-discovery, vulnerability, and revelation, while her band sounds like it's trying to create the sonic universe to contain them in real time. Cosmic climax "Woman" is even better. A swirling, psychedelic mirror to Burn Your Fire
's "Window" in its melody, it dares a deliberately vague "you" (lover? listener? both?) to "understand what makes me a woman."
As a whole, that's what My Woman
does with precision, nigh perfection. It dares and demands that you get a deeper understanding of Angel Olsen the woman and the musician. It's a charming, challenging depiction of someone trying to "make something real," as she declares from the get go. The results are real, indeed. Real great.
Angel Olsen returns to Philadelphia on September 14th at Union Transfer
. Enter to win a pair of tickets to her show when you vote for this week's Top 11 @ 11