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.

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