Monday, February 24, 2014

Angel Olsen Burns Her Fire Brighter

Angel Olsen
Raised in St. Louis before relocating to Chicago, Angel Olsen originally cut her teeth performing scores of indie folk songs inside Missouri coffee shops during her teenage years. And after that, she set out to put down records with like-minded musicians, namely our favored Bonnie “Prince" Billy.

On her own, Olsen is equally formidable. Her second solo LP is a full-throated exultation with bold, wavering melodies that rumble along in unexpected directions. The relentless thread of the album explores heartbreak, travel, and transformation, much like the personal journey she took before writing it.

Burn Your Fire For No Witness is recklessly raw and reflective. 

With all the self-assured angst of someone who has just lived it, Olsen tells us when to leave, when to love, and when to dance our away out of any nagging troubles. She does so intimately and convincingly with one unsettling and heartfelt reflection after another.

One of the first videos to be showcase the 11-track album is Hi-Five, a brooder about loneliness with an uneven country twang. She shudders and wails before eventually finding her center as she sings about bringing two lonely hearts together. They get stuck on each other.

The surreal quality of Zia Anger's video direction only adds to the vagabond quality of Olsen's near vintage sound. The only downside, perhaps, is that Hi-Five doesn't provide any real insight into her range or work, relying instead on her psychedelic folk elements.

Likewise, the other track that received an Anger video treatment is Forgiven/Forgotten, a psych pop-rock ballad that dances on the edge of forgiveness but still manages to leave you wondering. And therein lies of magic of Olsen's songwriting.

Whereas some songwriters write up sad situations with an upbeat angst, Olsen does the opposite. Forgiven/Forgotten hits you like a self-induced truth that masks the deeper wounds left by whomever and for whatever reason. Like Hi-Five, it's slow but much more unnerving.

Despite the video choices, Olsen isn't a one-speed songwriter. Since adding drummer Josh Jaeger and bassist Stewart Bronaugh, most of her material has a much fuller sound than her initial offerings. And even though many tracks flutter along, songs like High & Wild and Stars hint at a different portrait.

High & Wild is a slow burn vintage rocker that carries a psychedelic ribbon in a different direction. Stars thumps along with its fullness, giving Olsen a platform to lay down her feelings until there is nothing left. In contrast to those two, the opener Unfucktheworld highlights richly emotive lyrics — this time about lost love and the feelings of isolation that come with it.

In sum, Burn Your Fire For No Witness is a raw album that lays bare the best of Olsen's self-expression. She isn't afraid to share her soul, no matter where it might take her — soaring higher when she finds someone or lower when that someone lets her go and breaks her heart again.

Olsen's Burn Your Fire For No Witness Unsettles 7.2 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale. 

Angel Olsen seems to have found a better path for her evolution as an indie folk artist experimenting with a more haunting and often brooding garage rock assembly. Burn Your Fire For No Witness, in particular, is the kind of the album that continually grabs your attention and makes you look up, think about, and then settle back into it again.

You can find Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen on Amazon. You can also order Burn Your Fire For No Witness from Barnes & Noble or download it from iTunes. Olsen is currently on an aggressive tour schedule through June in the United States and Europe. For details, visit her Facebook page.
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