In one of the first posts on this website I reviewed the album Burn Your Fire For No Witness by Angel Olsen. In my review I raved about the style and tone Olsen managed to create with that album. And only now, three months later and a month after its release am I getting around to review her next album MY WOMAN.
A lot of the press coverage around this album is about how Olsen has changed the style of her music because she is trying to get out of the pigeonholed image it created. So I was curious to see what all the hype was about. So when I first listened ‘Intern’, maybe one of the most different of the songs off of the album, I straight up didn’t like it. The song is so much different than all of he music off of the 2014 album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, that I couldn’t wrap my head around it. But then I listened to the whole album and everything change.
Sure, MY WOMAN and Burn Your Fire for No Witness are, stylistically very different but underneath the style the music has the same personality. And that’s when I began to enjoy this album.
‘Intern’ itself has a slow synth and the song has a nineties feel. It could even be the track off of some pop star’s album. But there is something so enchanting about the song yet there is also something sad about it. Intern seems to be Olsen trying to get away from the image people have of her, like she sings in the song, “Something in the work will make a fool of you.” It seems like Olsen is proud of her work but does not want to be defined by the past.
Never Be Mine brings back the guitar. The song sounds like a crooning rock band from the 60’s mixed with a classic flamenco guitar riff. The song is topped of with the light rasps of Olsen’s voice.
‘Shut Up Kiss Me’ sounds like classic 2000’s indie. The melody is a bit funky and there is just enough reverb on the guitar to keep it from being a straight pop song.
Some of the songs on this album are fairly similar to the songs on Burn Your Fire for No Witness. The only thing that differentiates some of the songs on this album from the songs on that album is that these songs are arranged in a much more straightforward way. Like on the song ‘Give It Up’, all of the embellishments of Burn Your Fire are gone and we get this bare bones indie song.
On ‘Not Gonna Kill You’ instead of using a normal drum beat Angel Olsen employs what sounds like bongos for most of the song, which makes it sound sparse. This is paired with a guitar melody that sounds like it’s from ‘Black Hole Sun’, which creates this awesome sonic dynamic.
On ‘Heart Shaped Face’, an obvious reference to Nirvana’s ‘Heart Shaped Box’, Angel Olsen uses a twangy guitar to change the style of the song to a more relaxed country style. In the process the song has a feeling that you are just watching day float by.
‘Those Were The Days’ is a softer song than most of the music on this record. Olsen’s singing is barely there (in the nicest possible way) and the music is sweet and sweeping and the dreamlike lyrics of a day gone by take you into an almost surreal state of relaxation.
‘Woman’ is so genuine in its emotions. It has the slow burn of an emotional burden release, this all culminating the in lyric, “I dare you to understand, what makes me a woman.” The song itself seems like a love letter written to a former lover, but it becomes a sort of lesson for Olsen, like she’s realized that she loves this person, but she loves herself more. It’s a beautiful song.
‘Pops’, the last song on the album continues the theme of playing with genre. ‘Pops’ is a piano ballad that has a beautiful repeating melody that gives it a meditative quality. The lyrics tell the story of heartbreak. The narrator takes us through a break up; she tries to hold on but settles for just being, “The thing that lives in dream when it’s gone.”
A lot of the lyrics on this album are about an unattainable love. Most of the songs on this album deal with Olsen dealing with a difficult relationship, or a love that just won’t work right. Here we might be getting a deeper metaphor for music. It seems like she loves music but for whatever reason she always seems to be struggling with it. Also, in each of these songs we hear that Olsen is taking the lead with these problems; Olsen is firmly telling the audience that when it comes to her and her music, she is in charge.
So what we get at the end of this album is just an artist taking her art in a different direction. Which is important, any good artist needs to evolve, that’s what keeps them interesting. There are some personal manifesto’s for Olsen on this album, but what I think is more important than any of that is that this is a good record and it is in a collection of other good records from an artist that is still trying to make interesting art.
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