Revisit interviews with Angel Olsen from around the time of the release of her 2014 breakthrough album ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ and you’ll struggle to find photos of the US songwriter that weren’t a) in a churchyard b) by a tree c) by a tree in a churchyard.
Back then, that was her vibe. At least, that was the way the Missouri-born artist was often presented – a lonesome folk singer turned charged-up songstress. The shades of that album were dark – it was a raw exploration of loneliness, sadness and reflection but wrapped in defiance. It brought to mind flourishes of Cat Power, Mazzy Star and Dolly Parton. It was electrifying.
‘My Woman’ takes things to another level. After an exhausting period of touring (she describes the experience as like having a “birthday party” every night) Olsen returned home to Asheville, North Carolina to recharge and get to know herself again. What she’s returned with is even more powerful. While still often broken hearted, it’s filled with attitude. Olsen is a soft hard-nut.
The album itself, she says, is split in two. An A and B side. It’s not quite as straight-forward as the fiery stuff up front, the folky stuff further back, but close.
It opens with cosmic ballad ‘Intern’, which bleeds into the tragic sweetness of ‘Never Be Mine’. The grungy ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’ is the closest thing here to an anthem. The video, in fact – Olsen in a tinsel wig riding around on roller skates – captures her infectious, badass outlook perfectly. ‘Not Gonna Kill You’ is a ‘70s psychedelic glam-rock freakout.
The pace does slow for part two but it’s no less engaging. The highlight is ‘Sister’. A shimmering eight-minute distorted country-folk number that builds to a teary Fleetwood Mac crescendo complete with sprawling guitar solo.
As with her previous efforts Olsen’s unique vocal steals the show, but this is the singer opening up all the other parts to her personality. The more we see, the more there is to love.