Ever since she released her debut LP, Half Way Home, in 2012, Angel Olsen has been considered one of the more unique singer-songwriters out there. Her distinctive voice and wide range of influences resulted in something truly different. She’s also gained a reputation for high quality. Her 2014 record, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, is arguably one of that year’s best records. Olsen is back in 2016 with her latest record, My Woman, which sees the Asheville, North Carolina resident go beyond her previous efforts. The result is her finest work to date.
The first rumblings of this album came via a trailer featuring the first track on My Woman, “Intern”. A great teaser that seemed to show Olsen moving towards a throwback 80’s pop sound. However on the next track, Olsen does what she does best, performing the ’60s-influenced pop on “Never Be Mine”. That leads into the chaotic and perpetually singable “Shut Up Kiss Me”, which is a well deserved hit from this record with its infectious energy. The next track “Give It Up” is a great pop-rocker that leads into the epic, drum-driven “Not Gonna Kill You”.
After ending the first half with a bang, My Woman takes a turn toward the mellow. “Heart Shaped Face” is smooth, from Olsen’s voice to perfectly executed guitar leads and really stellar drumming. The slow build of “Sister” may be one of Olsen’s finest tracks. It is a quiet, cathartic epic that enchants at the beginning and then builds into a huge ending. The concluding guitar solo rivals some of finest jam bands out there, think The War on Drugs meets Fleetwood Mac. “Sister” then seamlessly merges into the jazzy, R&B-influenced “Those Were The Days”, where Olsen’s voice is barely more than a whisper.
Then there’s “Woman”. This cinematic track lulls the listener in with some really lush synth and a pulsating bass line. Then it kicks into overdrive as Olsen’s throws a little more power behind her voice and the bass and drums pick up. The song just heads into another world, as a whirlwind of incredible guitar work is introduced and Olsen’s voice reaches ethereal heights. The song then ends where it started – with the lush synth that gave us a false sense of melancholic security. My Woman comes to a close with “Pops”, a weighty, emotional track featuring just Olsen and piano.
My Woman is another big step for Olsen. She has evolved so much as a songwriter since her early days. Even between records, Olsen has shifted and leaned on different influences to create some really incredible stuff. There’s no “White Fire” on My Woman, but there’s no “Woman” on Burn Your Fire For No Witness. While her sound has shifted, it’s still recognizably Olsen, who long has been known as one of music’s finest songwriters of today. She’s certainly cemented her case with My Woman.
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