[sic] Magazine

Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

When a reviewer resorts to flights of verbosity – and occasionally we’re as guilty as the rest of them – it’s sometimes because they’re struggling for something meaningful to say. The writing has, for some reason, become a chore: the prose perhaps now more artful than its subject. Your forgiveness is hereby sought then for Bonnie “Prince” Billy protégée Angel Olsen has exactly the sort of magnetic repertoire to generate bouts of such purple superlatives.

Olsen is Missouri-born and very much an old world singer. Or at least she was. Her spellbinding 2010 release Strange Cacti was a dark-arts meeting of haunting reverbed melodies and that stop-you-in-your-tracks vocal. Its follow-up, 2012’s Half Way Home, was a natural progression to fleshed-out freak-folk. And then came the jarring single “Sweet Dreams” – pure plugged-in pop. With that in mind, and with one listen to Burn Your Fire For No Witness’s stomping fuzz-popper “Forgiven/Forgotten”, you’d assume Olsen was done with her old acoustic ways. You’d be wrong though. Olsen’s gone eclectic is all.

She has, for example, a curious Hank Williams-tinged rocker (“Hi-Five”) up her sleeve, an exercise in tumbling storytelling akin to that of the other girl-and-guitar of the moment Courtney Barnett (“High & Wild) and a mesmeric Kimya Dawson/pre-war hybrid (“Unfucktheworld”) too. All this and still no mention for the stunning 7-minute acoustic “White Fire”, which starts life as a hushed Leonard Cohen-style strum and closes as an unimaginably intangible Nick Drake whisper.

There are a small number of quality control inconsistencies however. The LP’s pedestrian midsection is certainly nothing to get your knickers in a twist over, but it does lead to the charming daydream ditty “Iota”, its shuffling murmur conjuring Parisian chanteuse chic. Olsen’s ricket-yet-timeless vocal isn’t always given the spotlight it deserves, though her quivering pipes are put to fascinating use during the barely-there “Enemy”. In turn, the beautiful, Feist-like “Windows” manages to hang its notes in so much echo as to capture them like shimmering motes of dust in a shaft of light. These are superlatives richly merited too. Olsen should be basking in the luxurious critique her work will no doubt be universally afforded.

Best tracks: “Forgiven/Forgotten” and “White Fire”

~Burn Your Fire For No Witness is out now via Jagjaguwar.~