Exposure: singer-songwriter Angel Olsen
Olsen's recent output salutes the work of Mazzy Star, The Everly Brothers, Astrud Gilberto and Leonard Cohen
This article is from 2014.
No one on earth could feel like this. I’m thrown and overblown with – well, to be honest, bliss doesn’t cover it, but let me tell you, Angel Olsen must be playing with my heart. The American singer-songwriter and guitarist – think Loretta Lynn ransacking the grunge canon – has just released her ace second album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, and a Glasgow visit fast approacheth.
Olsen, you say? Is Angel the lesser-known sibling of twin delinquents Mary-Kate and Ashley?
Au contraire. This particular Olsen – Missouri-born and signed to imperial indie Jagjaguwar – has more of a kinship with gothic-folk chanteuse Marissa Nadler, with whom she has collaborated twice to striking, minimal effect; or indeed with Will Oldham aka Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy: she appeared on Wolfroy Goes to Town and toured with him as part of The Cairo Gang.
An immaculate pedigree. Has Olsen released any music under her own steam?
And then some. Olsen’s solo debut EP, the reverb-guzzling Cacti (2010), and her first album, Half Way Home (2012), are gorgeous affairs: home-grown, poetic, intensely private and pronouncedly sparse. Her new LP, in contrast, is embellished by a backing band – drummer Josh Jaeger and bass player Stewart Bronaugh – and packs more of a sonic punch, variously saluting Mazzy Star, The Everly Brothers, Astrud Gilberto and Leonard Cohen.
Despite the fact that the new record is more of a collective effort, the album's title – Burn Your Fire For No Witness – suggests that a sense of isolation still enkindles Olsen’s work.
Indeed, and lines like ‘I feel so lonesome I could cry’ (from scuzzy country-lament ‘Hi-Five’) uphold this declaration. There’s an impression of solitude throughout the album, alongside themes of loneliness, loss, finding your place and (not) belonging. Being lost never sounded so fine.
Mono, Glasgow, Mon 9 Jun; Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar) is out now.