“Doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done / Still gotta wake up and be someone”are some of the first words you’ll hear off of Angel Olsen’s new full-length My Woman. Recently, Olsen commented on the need to find harmony between keeping fans content and protecting her rights as a human being, not caring much about what they think. The artist boasts 10 tracks, picking up a few tips from recording members to keep the songs moving along with instrumentals to spare. After a shift out of the folk world, Angel Olsen enters into the fuller sound with poise. It’s not a risky leap into the unknown, though. She kept some composure along the same lines of song development that fans can follow. That vintage ’60s voice with the slight quiver is easy to distinguish. Several songs on the album pick up right where Olsen left us on 2014’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness. The diva and oft-quixotic style come out to play.
From the start of My Woman I notice abstaining from Bonnie “Prince” Billy. The overlooked folk artist led Angel Olson into the spotlight by having her perform background vocals on several recordings and tours. In any manner, most songs on the album are masterfully vintage sounding. Right out of the gate, “Never Be Mine” and “Shut Up Kiss Me” revere retro ’60s resonance like modern day Foxygen meshed with the Ramones. The album focuses on a lively four songs, then peels off into a hypnotic phase for the remainder. Tracks 5-8 follow an in-between phase of somber and radical hippie gestures. Songs “Sister” and “Those Were The Days” propagate the energetic flow only at their peak endings. Mid-album expressions “Never Gonna Kill You” and “Heart Shaped Face” are really the only downers of the album. Their hypnotic fusions kind of buck listeners off the horse, those expecting this album to be more quick-paced than sluggish.
“Woman” is defiantly the most vulnerable song of the album. Showing its nakedness, the seven-minute escalade opens up into a flounder of Olsen’s emotional atmosphere. “I dare you to understand what makes me a woman” trickles through as Olsen belts out in diva fashion. This song is also the most unique as it brings up a jazzy club vibe. It’s a snappy tune on its own. But with the album, it rubs up against some flimsy walls to stand out as a highlight.
This is where Olsen backs up her words. Setting aside the solo-folk influence, she transitions into the “band” envelope. She claims that adding more people and more instruments can build into something and still make a point. The album makes that point at times, like when the band decides it’s time for a groovy, one line guitar solo. Other times it leaves me complaining and wanting more straight rhythms. The album floats amongst the pop-punk of the Ramones, the earthy vibes of the Beatles, and the jazz-soul of Nina Simone . I’d even go so far as to say that it felt like I was ducking in and out of the film Across the Universe and making my way over to the local jazz club.
The album’s inconsistent tendencies make it far from perfect. However, Angel Olsen ends on a beauty note. The finale “Pops” bears resemblance to Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s style. The piano driven song is quite beautiful with lyrics “Baby don’t forget it’s our song / I’ll be the thing that lives in the dream when it’s gone.” Olsen pulls off gracefully one last time, which is why I’d actually recommend the album.
Indie Rock | Jagjaguwar