Angel Olsen - My Woman

by Steve Ricciutti Rating:9 Release Date:2016-09-02

Music, more than most other forms of art, can turn one’s opinion around with repeated exposure. Upon first go, I had very mixed feelings about Angel Olsen’s latest lp, her third, My Woman. The way it’s sequenced, the album is something of a night and day type of experience, with the first five tracks largely crackling with glam, grunge, and glee and the last five moving to a smoother, slower, and more soulful beat. Yet, the more I listened, the more that second half began to impress me as the hidden beauty revealed itself. The torch-jazz-soul of “Woman” or the chill pop-blues of “Sister” are both longer numbers that reveal so much more to the committed listener, particularly on “Sister” where her gorgeous, quavering vocal turn gives way to some perfect guitar pyrotechnics.

For those unfamiliar with Olsen’s previous work, this album represents something of a departure of sorts due to the artist’s exploration of a blend of styles rather than her almost-pigeon-holed reputation for navel-gazing country-alternative. In fact, on this collection, songs like “Shut Up Kiss Me” and “Give It Up” are downright playful, while the slower numbers provide guitarist Stewart Bronaugh the chance to fire off chord riffs and distorted rave-ups propelled by drummer Joshua Jaeger while bassist Emily Elhaj buoys the latter numbers with her funky, jazzy playing. For her part, Ms. Olsen showcases her gift for simple solo genius with the aching finale “Pops,” a sparse keyboard accompaniment to a heartbreaking tale.

Vocally, Olsen possesses a lovely voice, her range clearly up to the stylist breadth, be it Hope Sandoval’s eerie whisper (“Heart Shaped Face”), Lana del Rey’s bored croon (“Intern”), or all the places in between and beyond. Musically, she eases through her musical explorations with veteran aplomb. “Give It Up” calls to mind The Ronettes if they subbed in Dusty Springfield on vocals instead, and “Not Gonna Kill You” has an Aquarian Age jangle blended into a Garbage-esque sonic overload. Songs are vicious, tender, plaintive, and even a tad silly at times, but well crafted throughout.

Olsen has some impressive history and a near-precocious existential approach to life, all of which add up to a mature piece of work that makes My Woman definitely worth a listen or three.

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