Angel Olsen

Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Jagjaguwar

Feb 17, 2014 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


One of the most striking things about Angel Olsen's solo work to date might be the fact that she initially made her bones utilizing her enviable pipes harmonizing with Will Oldham and as one of Emmett Kelly's Cairo Gang. On her own, her songs and delivery are so cocksure that it's no small wonder how she was ever able to comparatively keep her vocal and compositional lights under bushels.

That's not to suggest her second full-length (and first for Jagjaguwar) is a perfect record. It's a mildly shambolic and, well, sort of sad affair that initially feels like less than the sum of its parts. That is to say, there are several truly great songs here; first single "Forgiven/Forgotten" is a defiant punk strum and stomp, "Lights Out" sounds like it could've been written for a prime-period Emmylou Harris record (and is sung better by Olsengasp!) and "Dance Slow Decades" leisurely builds to the sort of mildly psychedelic coda in which Olsen's spiritual kin Jesse Sykes specializes.

But Burn Your Fire For No Witness requires patience to reveal all its charms. When producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, The Shins, pretty much every band ever), bathes the voice of an Angel (sorry) in quite a lot of effect on "Hi-Five" or "Unfucktheworld," the result creates an initially unpleasant disjointed feel when the bell-clear (and simply beautiful) vocal of "Enemy" or the stunning closer "Windows" hits the ear. But I think I get it. Burn Your Fire feels like Olsen's tentative "fuck you" to those who would dismiss her as just another voice, tossing aside the bushel and letting the compositional light shine as brightly as the vocal. She still sings prettily, and can prove it when doubted, but Olsen is more than willing to ugly it up so her songs can speak for themselves. (www.angelolsen.com)

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