Fri 06 Jun 2014 19:30
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Many of the superlatives describing Angel Olsen refer to how seemingly little it takes for her to leave an audience speechless, even
spellbound. But Olsen has never been as timid as those descriptors
imply, and the noisy, fiery hints in her earlier work find a fuller
expression on her newest LP, Burn Your Fire for No Witness. Here,
Olsen sings with full-throated exultation, admonition, and bold,
expressive melody. Also, with the help of producer John Congleton, her
music now crackles with a churning, rumbling low end and a brighter
Angel Olsen began singing as a young girl in St. Louis, where she
explored the remarkable range of her voice and the places it could
take her songwriting. Her self-released debut EP, Strange Cacti,
belied both that early period of discovery and her Midwestern roots.
Cautious and homespun on the one hand, the EP transported us to a
mystical, unrecognizable world on the other, and it garnered extensive
praise for its enigmatic beauty. Olsen then went further on Half Way
Home, her first full-length album (released on Bathetic Records),
which mined essential themes while showcasing a more developed voice. Olsen dared to be more personal.
After extensive touring, Olsen eventually settled for a time in
Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood, where she created "a collection
of songs grown in a year of heartbreak, travel, and transformation."
The new songs go on to tell us to leave, or to high-five a lover who
is lacking, or to dance our way up and out of sorrow. Many of them
also remain essentially unchanged from their bare beginnings. In
leaving them so intact, a more self-assured Olsen is opening up to us,
allowing us to be in the room with her at the very genesis of these
songs, when the thread of creation is most vulnerable and least
filtered. Our reward for entering this room are many head-turning
moments and the powerful, unsettling recognition of ourselves in the
weave of her songs.