Angel Olsen

A Change Has Come

Apr 18, 2014 Issue #49 - February/March 2014 - Portlandia
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The year 2014 is ramping up to be a big one for Angel Olsen. February saw the release of Olsen's sophomore album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, her first with the   Jagjaguwar label. For this album, Olsen has also stepped away from the solo acoustic fare of 2010's Strange Cacti EP and 2012's Half Way Home and formed a band. But first, to start this new chapter in her career, the St. Louis-born songwriter has decided to move from her adopted home of Chicago, where she has lived for the past seven years, to the greener pastures of Asheville, North Carolina.

"I realized that it didn't really matter where I lived," says Olsen, citing touring commitments and the bitter Chicago winters as additional factors in her decision. "If I lived in New York, it wouldn't really hit me for a long time, because I'm traveling too often to know whether I hate the place or love the place."

Burn Your Fire for No Witness marks a decisive step for Olsen, not just that it was recorded with a banddrummer Josh Jaeger and guitarist/bass player Stewart Bronaughbut also in that she tempers some of the jazzy, inflected elements of her vocals that have been so present in her past work in favor of a more direct style that emphasizes the content of her personal lyrics and the punch of her lyrical themes.

"I don't think you need to do backflips with your voice," says Olsen. "Even if you know that you're capable of something, you want to make something sound interesting as a whole, and not just like, 'Oh cool, I can do this really interesting thing with my vocal cords,' versus, 'Here's a line that's really important to me and this is the sound of the band I'm working with.'"

Exemplified in songs like the loping, old-time country-ish "Hi-Five" and the album's first single, the driving "Forgiven/Forgotten," much of Burn Your Fire seems to deal with the duality of being with someone yet feeling detached.

"It goes back and forth between the idea about that being a negative thing and that being a really amazing positive thing," says Olsen. "This idea of being happy with yourself outside of everything, outside of anyone, and not putting all of the weight of the world onto someone else, having this idea of separating yourself from the universe and being excited that you can be alive to learn how to enjoy it."

Burn Your Fire was written in an intense period just after she returned from touring, and with this album, her future seems to hold much of the same. Yet by all estimations, it portends a breakout year.

"What I've learned from the past few albums and from performing with professional musicians is that I don't know what to expect in the future," says Olsen. "But I'm excited for performing and to move in this direction. It has been more exciting for me to work with others versus being pegged as an acoustic, quiet singer/songwriter.... It's a new chapter. So in some ways I am breaking out of a lot of things."

[Note: This article first appeared in the February/March print issue (Issue 49).]

 

 

 



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