Angel Olsen

MY WOMAN

Jagjaguwar

Sep 01, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Angel Olsen threw a curve ball by announcing MY WOMAN with the "Intern" video. Clad in a silver wig, her unmistakable voice was present, but it was served over a warbling synth backdrop, simultaneously both uneasy and familiar, like an Angelo Badalamenti score.

"Intern" turned out to be a bit of misdirection, and MY WOMAN is not as large of a departure from her folk country origins as it might have implied. This was probably clear with the debut of the record's first proper single, "Shut Up Kiss Me," a pouty-lipped glam sequel to the honky-tonk of "High-Five," the standout track from 2013's Burn Your Fire For No Witness. As foretold by "Intern," certain pop production aspects do appear occasionally without overstaying their welcome, like the subtle, ice-cold backing vocals on "Shut Up Kiss Me" that evaporate just as they become apparent.

The star of the show is Olsen's once-in-a-generation voice. If there isn't anything quite as raw as 2012's Half Way Home, the new record certainly builds upon the range introduced by Burn Your Fire for No Witness. She can plead like Patsy Cline re-incarnate on "Never Be Mine," or reach back towards the intimate vulnerability of her early records on album-closer "Pops."

Perhaps nothing illustrates the array of vocal personalities like "Sister," where Olsen moves from Stevie Nicks alto to breathy whisper over the course of seven effortless minutes. Her breathy singing voice makes appearances elsewhere, sometimes signaling the weaker parts of the record. Pleasant and seductive but not emotionally resonant, it floats easily over the billowy, synth-laden first-half of "Woman," the record's other seven-minute-plus track. As its title-referencing name suggests, "Woman" serves as a sampler for the record as a whole, moving from a detached, otherworldly opening to an impassioned Olsen belting "Tell me that love isn't true."

Listeners expecting the feminine-themed album and song titles to highlight obvious lyrical threads will be left with more vague notions. What is consistent is Olsen's musical personality, which feels perfectly at ease and singular, irrespective of producers or genres or other boxes that might try to contain it. (www.angelolsen.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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