In Review: Angel Olsen’s ‘My Woman’ is full of heart-felt range
It’s tempting to reduce Angel Olsen’s music to welldefined categories. She’s an indie pop-folk singer whose new album “My Woman” (which comes out Friday) seems at times to encourage the thought that it’s a strictly feminist work, only to shy away from that take at others.
Maybe that’s all part of the game for the 29-yearold North Carolina-based musician, who shot into the independent scene’s limelight with the highly lauded “Burn Your Fire For No Witness” in 2014. Olsen’s musical aesthetic continues to interest so thoroughly because it feels like a nearconstant balancing act between youthful simplicity and graceful maturity. Who wants to be pinned down when you can have both?
Olsen handles the oscillations deftly. On “My Woman,” she jumps from addictive pop gems like “Shut Up Kiss Me” to heartheavy slow burns like “Not Gonna Kill You” and “Heart Shaped Face.”
On the latter, she sings: “I’ve seen you / changing. / Was it me you were thinking of, / All the time when you thought of me? / … Or was it your mother? / Or was it your shelter? / Or was it another / With a heart shaped face?”
She maintains her signature reverb-laden vocals and hazy guitar sound and comes across as immense on many of the songs on the first half of the album, especially on the multi-tracked “Give It Up,” before suddenly shrinking to the back corner of a smoky room for the second half. For the nostalgic “Those Were The Days,” she taps her innermost Stevie Nicks for the record’s most poignant and fragmented opening verse.
She sings: “Do you remember the way that it / Used to be? / I’d wait for you, / Kept on searching with me. / Feeling free. / Want to see each other all the time. / Those were the days: / Nothing to lose and nothing to find.”
Olsen apparently began writing these songs on piano, but switched in favor of a synthesizer and Mellotron, which comes through on the lead song “Intern.” She has said that the content of “My Woman” does frequently deal with “the complicated mess of being a woman,” but also that “it’s important that people can interpret things the way that they want to.”
The point is that there’s more than one thing to take from this album, and that it’s an exceedingly smooth listen. There aren’t many singer-songwriters creating in 2016 who can match her in terms of vocal expression and range, and even fewer who can do so as restrainedly as she. Now as we settle into the prime of her musical career, take just an hour or so to enjoy it.