Release Date: Feb 18, 2014
Record label: Jagjaguwar
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Review Summary: Won't you open a window sometime?“I think you like to see me lose my mind,” ruminates Angel Olsen on “Stars”, the centerpiece of Jagjaguwar’s latest contribution to indie rock’s wrecked-torch oeuvre, Burn Your Fire for No Witness. “You treat me like a child; I’m angry, blind/I feel so much at once that I could scream. ” Lyrically, the song treks a landscape that has long since been worn thin by the legions of guitar-toting troubadours already out there, but emotionally, Olsen’s performance has enough heft in it to stop any unsuspecting listeners dead in their tracks.
For all the album reviews there are, most leave the critic out of the text. If the author does show up, it is usually for some necessary personal insight, but rarely is it to point out the bias that he or she holds. Everything from the situations surrounding our upbringing to the quality of our coffee this morning affects the listen we give to music.
Angel Olsen is only just releasing her second full-length album, but the Missouri-born guitarist already has a fully formed personal philosophy: “No-one will ever be you for yourself”, she sang gravely on ‘The Sky Opened Up’, from 2012’s largely acoustic ‘Half Way Home’. Released on tiny North Carolina indie Bathetic, the album’s word-of-mouth success invited her to a comparably bigger deal with Jagjaguwar, who are putting out ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’. Its title is a biblically bold declaration accompanied by 11 songs that put the 27-year-old’s worldview in no uncertain terms: disinterested in the attentions of others and steadfastly committed to honouring her own intentions and experience.
I've enjoyed this record a lot, and it's with mild regret that I waste precious listening time writing about it. It's with equal sadness that I'm subject to descriptive limitations, since whatever elaborate string of (supposedly) highly tuned adjectives I apportion the record, they only really convey its shadows. Angel Olsen began as a part of something else, a member of The Babblers - or The Cairo Gang in certain circles.
Angel Olsen’s first album, Half Way Home, was a collection of understated, delicate arrangements, given lifeblood by her astonishing voice. Early singles from Burn Your Fire for No Witness, however, provided a stark and sudden contrast. Loaded with drums and, distortion, songs like ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’ and ‘Hi-Five’ turned the focus away from Olsen’s voice, and put a more general sense of angst in its place.
It’s tough to pigeonhole Angel Olsen as a singer/songwriter, as her short career has been defined by the unexpected. Even before Olsen’s auspicious full-length debut, Half Way Home, she took a break from her own music to tour with Bonnie “Prince” Billy, debuting as a member of The Babblers. With that group, she dressed in pajamas, shrieking punk rock covers of Kevin Coyne and Dagmar Krause, as well as performing Bonnie “Prince” Billy songs as a member of The Cairo Gang, with a remarkable vocal turn on Wolfroy Goes To Town cut “Time To Be Clear”.
Songwriters can often exhibit natural defensiveness towards their own songs. For some, it can be difficult opening up in such a personal forum, and as such we can be left with nice but somewhat superficial lyrics as a result. Like sharing a diary, there’s an element of exposing oneself to ridicule and hurt in the process. Suffice to say it takes a special kind of artist to lay their feelings bare for the entire world to pick over.
When starting Angel Olsen’s latest release, you might think you have just pressed play on yet another album full of lightly strummed guitars and delicate vocals about sweethearts. Let’s just put your troubled mind to rest. Burn Your Fire For No Witness is not one of those albums. The album’s purposefully quiet opener, “Unfucktheworld,” acts as the fragile preamble to an explosive collection of honest songs about the internal struggles with life after the buildup and breakdown of love.
“Hi-Five”, the third song on Angel Olsen’s second album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, has got to be one of the most cheerful songs ever written about being lonely. A twangy electric folk tune that begins with an invocation of its muse, Hank Williams, the song is all stomp-and-rollick until it stops to catch its breath for a moment in the bridge. “Are you lonely too?” Olsen warbles.
On Angel Olsen‘s breakout full-length, Half Way Home, the arrangements were simplified, if rarely simple. Guitar, bass, some percussion, all coated in a familiar country-folk dust. The range came not only in Olsen’s emotions, but also in her striking and unpredictable voice. If she was visiting heartaches and concepts of mortality we’d heard put to similar backdrops before, her cyclical structures, keen observations, and (above all) her staggering vocals range set her apart.
One of the most striking things about Angel Olsen's solo work to date might be the fact that she initially made her bones utilizing her enviable pipes harmonizing with Will Oldham and as one of Emmett Kelly's Cairo Gang. On her own, her songs and delivery are so cocksure that it's no small wonder how she was ever able to comparatively keep her vocal and compositional lights under bushels. .
Last December, Angel Olsen opened for Neko Case at the Forum, one of London's draughtier old theatres. For half an hour, it was Olsen, her stark electric guitar and her basilisk stare versus a demi-interested crowd, still trickling in from work. Some there might have heard of Olsen's first album, 2012's Half Way Home, a collection of acoustic songs that veered more towards the 1940s than they did the wispiness of folk.
Boldly reclaiming the yodel from snack food and anti-martian weaponry, the bracing quality of Angel Olsen’s trilling continues to strikingly contrast with the modest feel of her arrangements. Her intonation is so searching, so lost in melody that the songs start to resemble something much more poignant than songs. They sound like they need to spill forth and swirl around for awhile, with no concise agenda.
When Angel Olsen's proper debut, Half Way Home, materialized in 2012, its spare indie folk compositions and subtle references to the greats of '50s country congealed into a restless whole. The album was great, but something in the way the songs connected with each other suggested that Olsen had something far more complex to say that wasn't quite getting through with Half Way Home, despite its fantastically crafted offerings. With Burn Your Fire for No Witness, Olsen expands in all directions, fully reaching the depth of expression hinted at on her last album while still lingering in the restlessness and searching feelings that make all of her work so captivating.
Angel Olsen's second album marries solo singer-songwriter stuff with buzzy, fuzzy alt-pop – alternating between one and the other so expertly that the strengths of both are highlighted, the weaknesses pushed deep into the background. It's not a cheery listen, mind: "I lost my dream, I lost my reason all again," she sings on the opening Unfucktheworld, following it on Forgiven/Forgotten – which sounds like a forgotten indie classic from 1992 – with the assertion that "If there's one thing I fear/ It's only your arms/ So close, but not here. " On the album's centrepiece, the almost-seven-minute White Fire, she opens with the almost self-parodically miserable: "Everything is tragic/ It all just falls apart.
ANGEL OLSEN plays the Garrison May 7. See listing. Rating: NNNN "What's so wrong with the light?" Angel Olsen opines on the final track of her latest release. Maybe she's asking herself. On her second album, the artist is lonely, defiant and reflective. Our first guess is she's singing about her ….
Something’s stirred in Angel Olsen since the release of 2012’s ‘Halfway Home’ LP. What was previously a content, albeit melancholy-laced drift has since been ruthlessly stamped on.With a rotten tooth to spit out and a desire to stay below the three minute mark with each of her songs, ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ is a record about wanting to be adored, if only for a split second. ‘Sometimes / Not always,’ as ‘Hi-Five’ so boldly begs over jazz hands piano and a fuzz-sunken guitar line.
Somewhere underneath the laidback, country-tinged cuts on Angel Olsen's 2012 album, Half Way Home, was an edgier, more energized songwriter, evidenced by the gritty guitar tone on “Lonely Universe” and the singer's bitter snarl on “The Waiting. ” Those more aggressive tendencies are featured more prominently alongside Olsen's breathy vocals on Olsen's follow-up, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, which is noisier, brasher, and more confident than its languid predecessor. The album strikes a careful balance between its lyrics' pointed self-criticism and the music's stoner atmospherics.
Following on from her engrossing debut album Half Way Home, Missouri-born Angel Olsen has turned things up a notch with her latest effort Burn Your Fire For No Witness. Her second record – discounting 2011’s cassette-only EP Strange Cacti – is her first with a band, working with drummer Josh Jaeger and bassist Stewart Bronaugh to push her soundscape into an entirely new territory. As demonstrated by lead single Forgiven/Forgotten, the record sees Olsen plug in the electric guitar and move away from the skeletal acoustic sound that dominated her debut.
Anyone looking to invite Angel Olsen over to be the life of their party, might want to rethink that move. Based on the evidence of the singer-songwriter’s sophomore full length, Olsen is locked in a moody, melancholy, introspective morass that isn’t going to lift soon. If the Velvet Underground recorded a second album with Nico, it would likely sound similar to this eleven song set of ruminations about misplaced love, broken relationships and feeling lost and alone in the world.
The Missouri singer-songwriter's second full-length expands the dim folk of her 2012 debut into compact, passionate indie rock with shades of country and psychedelia – wringing maximal yearning out of minimal arrangements in three minutes or less, like some no-budget Roy Orbison. Not that romantics like Olsen think in terms so practical. "I don't know anything," she insists on the chorus of "Forgiven/Forgotten," "but I love you" – wailing that line like a truth she wishes she could shake.
Angel Olsen Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar) Drawing upon a finely curated mixture of Middle American postpunk, British folk, and classic country torch-bearing, Angel Olsen's second album puts the Missouri-born singer-songwriter's strengths in the best possible light. Her mastery of emotional vocal nuance brings to mind a hypothetical grandchild of Marianne Faithfull and Roy Orbison in that drama, depth, and delicacy get parsed out in strategic amounts. You can almost smell the booze wafting off of "Hi-Five," yet an air of numb desperation girds the expedient romantic electricity.
When musicians re-imagine the sounds of the past, it’s almost always through a romanticized lens. For artists like Best Coast and Dum Dum Girls, the long-ago rock ’n’ roll of the ’50s and ’60s represents a kind of safe space, a respite where pouting hearts are soothed by nostalgic comforts. That isn’t the case, though, for songwriter Angel Olsen, whose volatile voice lends an undercurrent of real, immediate danger to the early garage-rock throwbacks of Burn Your Fire For No Witness.
So there’s this Ergs! song that I just discovered, and in the three-odd months I’ve spent trying to write and rewrite a review for Burn Your Fire for No Witness—a triumphant, utterly confusing record with subtleties I call shitstorms—it’s taught me more than Angel Olsen has about what she means when she writes in overwhelming platitudes and superlatives, only to then say “sometimes”. The song in question is “Books About Miles Davis,” taken from the NJ pop-punk outfit’s second record, Upstairs/Downstairs. It is comprised of simple pop-punk magic: a few chords, a bit that’s louder and more memorable than the rest, and a hell of a lot of wishful thinking.
Whether she’s playing a lone lo-fi guitar or fronting her Velvets-rooted studio band, whether she’s singing as if only to herself or opening up with hints of torchy sorrow, Angel Olsen aims to keep things blunt and essential on her second album, “Burn Your Fire for No Witness” (Jagjaguwar ….
Angel Olsen lands a sucker punch on the closing song of her new album. “Windows” is so unexpected, both light as a feather and heavy as hell, that you immediately want to hear it again. And once more. “What’s so wrong with the light?/ Wind in your hair, sun in your eyes,” she sings amid a swell of harmonies, not as a question but rather in defense of it.
In a live review last fall, BLURT’s commentator, clearly entranced, called Chicago’s Angel Olsen’s singing “feral and raw, cutting a ragged path through the air. [She] has a varied, emotionally charged voice, now soft and jazzy like Joni Mitchell, now vibrating with feeling like Connie Francis, now hiccupping and wailing like a female Charlie Feathers… Olsen is a singer to watch. ” That’s an understatement.
Angel Olsen — Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar)Angel Olsen has a prickly kind of intensity. She reveals herself in hushed confession then flutters away in vibrato-laced trills and abstractions, leading you into quiet contemplation one minute and shattering your serenity with a banshee keen the next. She has a beautiful voice when it suits her.
As a title, Burn Your Fire For No Witness might on reflection essentially carry no more weight than something like Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, but Angel Olsen has developed a way of delivering such sentiments that is anything but trite. Since her last album Half Way Home was released a little over a year ago, Olsen seems to have settled in to a commendable niche, with its follow up building on the ground there laid not only in terms of the additional instrumentation, but in the way her ideas are delivered in a manner that's now bracingly to the point. In one respect, Olsen might have more to hide behind on Burn Your Fire, with this being the first record she's ever made with a full band.
opinion by PETER TABAKIS < @ptabakis > The act of purging emotion through song is the least expensive form of therapy. Depending on the talent of the songwriter, results can vary from utter dreck to great art. When Angel Olsen exorcises her demons through melody, the outcome typically comes just within reach of the latter.