RATING: 3.5 / 5 STARS
2014s Burn Your Fire For No Witness
by Angel Olsen
was glorious. It was raw, authentic, and had a slightly lazy vibe, but in the "Oh my god, Angel is such a cool girl type of way." It was guitar-driven and retro and on her new, highly anticipated album MY WOMAN,
she sticks to all of these sounds, yet it somehow sounds so different.
The production is sleeker, Olsen abandons the reverb-y vocals and trades them in for a more confident, upfront voice. The first song on the album, "Intern," which she released in advance of the album, set our hopes high. Its filled with lush synths and is basically the complete opposite of anything she's ever done before. It sounded modern, focused, like a true dream. Then she released her second single "Shut Up Kiss Me" which was stellar, possibly one of the best singles of the year. In this song, she goes back to her more familiar sound with guitars-galore, but the production is clearer than ever. The song is tight and to the point with absolutely no fat to cut. Its a perfect indie pop anthem that made our expectations grow to almost impossible lengths.
Then there are some tracks like "Never Be Mine," "Give It Up," and "Not Gonna Kill You," they're fine, but nothing that lets Olsen's songwriting abilities shine. They all adopt a late 60s, Rolling Stones sound with rowdy, untamable guitars and thumping drums that sound like they may have been recorded to tape. There are a couple of songs on the longer side, like the almost eight minute long "Sister." It starts off slow but around the five minute mark, Olsen channels her inner Stevie Nicks with glorious harmonies, "All my life I thought I'd change,
" a conflicting internal issue that burns right into the listeners soul. She stops singing and let's the imperfect, jangling guitars take over, it feels like at this point she's given up and left the room, but then when the guitars settle, she comes back quietly. The low key "Those Were The Days," features Olsen's voice, which is so reserved it sounds almost as if she's singing to herself. The--sort of--title track, "Woman," is another seven minute burner. The prolonged beginning doesn't do much for the song itself and could be cut without being missed, but in the latter half when Olsen wails "I dare you to understand what makes me a woman
" and guitars reminiscent of Pink Floyd fly in out of nowhere, it makes the wait worth it. The album ends with "Pops," a piano ballad which is once again, unusual for Olsen.
The guitars throughout this entire record are clever -- constantly soloing, but never to show off. They never try to fit in as many notes as they can, but instead just float off into their own little wonderment. We applaud Olsen for trying out a new sound. Her musical confidence is flourishing and she's keeping the retro aesthetic we all love, but in terms of songwriting, perhaps this record was a bit lazy, in the not-so-cool way. A lot of vague lyrics seem to be sung for self-indulgence and grow tired quickly, but Olsen's forever-beautiful voice and evolving sound continues to keep us engaged.