It’s hard to believe it’s been over three years since Angel Olsen first came to my attention when she opened a show at The Empty Bottle that I attended having no idea who she was (another opener at that show: the amazing Neutral Uke Hotel). She was already pretty well known around Chicago, but I was still new to the area. A singer/songwriter with Bathetic Records, she also spent some time working with Bonnie “Prince” Billy. I knew after the first song that she’d have a bright future, but the best tune that night was this one (video from a different venue, of course:
“Barrier Of Bodies”
After a couple cassette releases and her first full-length, last year’s Half Way Home, she’s back with a brand new record that brings out her voice in ways we haven’t heard before. Early on there was a lot of covering for insecurity-a thick country twang at times, some whispered words. Neither of which will be found on Burn Your Fire For No Witness, Olsen’s strongest release to date. When I first heard her sing, I thought she sounded like a mix of Joanna Newsom and Connie Francis. Those comparisons have fallen by the wayside, but the vocals retain a kind of timelessness-the songs could be old folk tunes or some kind of post-apocalyptic odes to times forgotten.
The album doesn’t come out until mid-February, but a single was released a while back that you can check out here. It’s big and bold and completely different than what you might expect after hearing Olsen’s early work.
I really dig how she just kicks the door open with the guitars and Josh Jaeger’s drums-anything is possible on this new record, and if the crazy distortion at the end is any indication you should free your mind of any pre-existing expectations.
My favorite song on the first run through the album was “Lights Out,” and it remains my number one after a couple more spins. It starts off like old classic folk but builds to a trippy psych-rock in the final minute or so. I like the message of hope in the refrain: “Just when you thought you would turn all your lights out, it shines. Some days all you need is one good thought strong in your mind.”
Burn Your Fire For No Witness is Olsen’s first album on Jagjaguwar, nurturing label for such bands as Okkervil River and Bon Iver. I think it’s a good fit for both of them, and I look forward to many albums in the future. Olsen seems to be a more confident singer and the songwriting has matured with every release. You can check out a couple of her older releases on Spotify while you await the release of the new record on February 18th.