Angel Olsen released one of 2014’s defining records in Burn Your Fire For No Witness, fusing scuzzy alt rock and muted heartbreakers to great effect. Occasionally, oddly vocally reminiscent of Roy Orbison, there’s an arresting directness to My Woman that is sure to be instantly recognisable from last time out. And yet, Olsen draws a line in the sand within the first four bars of My Woman, with a lush synth based arrangement driving ‘Intern’, a track unlike any other in her canon. To an extent, this track serves to mislead, as we soon revert to the classic sound familiar from Burn Your Fire.., but equally it serves as a statement of intent. What matters is the melody, the vocal, the sheer attitude at play.
By turns hugely evocative of classic guitar pop of the sixties (see the wonderful ‘Never Be Mine’) and occasionally, guitar rock of the early nineties (grungy chorus of the spectacular ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’) while at all times feeling truly vital, all underpinned by that voice. Standouts abound throughout, from the awareness of the power of a split second pause in the intro of ‘Give It Up’, to the beautiful verse melody of ‘Not Gonna Kill You’ (“I’m just another, alive with impossible plans”) melting into an abrasive, almost post punk style chorus, ultimately fading out as Olsen vows to “let the light shine in”.
The record breaks in two after ‘Heart Shaped Face’, which ushers in a more restrained tone after the spectacular first half of the LP. The epic ‘Sister’ calls to mind Fleetwood Mac, particularly in terms of vocal delivery, with Ira Kaplan or Tom Verlaine on guitar duties. Here, the album goes widescreen, growing progressively more expansive, slightly more expressive and ebullient, given room to breathe by the minimal, simple production.
My Woman represents a further leap forward from one of the most vital songwriters operating today. It is classic sounding, ever more assertive and feels as though it is coming from a different place than Olsen’s earlier efforts. Though never meek in the past, this is eminently more direct and certain than ever before. A rich juxtaposition of classic sounds, and dark themes, although cast in a more redemptive, hopeful light than may have been the case on past records. Angel Olsen has delivered another timeless, absorbing record, by turns fuzzy and jangly, that gets better on each and every listen.