The 2014 release and breakthrough success of Burn Your Fire for No Witness kicked off the endless typecasting of Angel Olsen as a deeply sad folk singer that makes people cry at her concerts. The Asheville, North Carolina-based artist claimed to have been in a period of restlessness, “At the time I was done with a lot of things. I was done with living in the city, and I felt very bitter about a lot of things. But in this record it’s less about loneliness and more about getting older and realising that essentially you’re on your own trip. That’s the kind of stuff I wanted to explore and write about on My Woman, as opposed to the grit, anger, and resentment on the last one.”
We got a glimpse of Angel Olsen’s new sound in the self-directed and produced music video for ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’, the second single offher latest release My Woman, where Olsen donned a silver tinsel wig and roller skated around while defiantly singing, “Shut up kiss me hold me tight”. In the song ‘Woman’, a meandering seven-minute ballad, she challenges the listener with to “dare to understand what makes me a woman”. It’s temping to say that Midwest-native has undergone a transformation, but Olsen insists that she hasn’t. “So many artists go through this, where people romanticise this small percentage of who they are and think that’s all there is to your personality,” she says. “But you know, I’m not sad all the time! I’m not trying to force people to wallow in their sadness. In the song ‘Wildfire’ [on Burn Your Fire], the first two lines are ‘Everything is tragic, it all just falls apart’. That can sound overly melodramatic or deeply sad depending on how you see it. In this album, I just wanted to further explore the way you can have fun with sad songs and frankly, I just want to have a bit of levity!”
Olsen’s inimitable vocals seems to have developed in range since her last album, deep and sensual in My Woman’s opening track ‘Intern’ and dipping in and out of cries and near-whispers on on ‘Sister’, a seven-minute ode to female companionship that echoes Neil Young’s On The Beach (1974). “My voice has definitely changed, I feel like my balls have dropped or something [laughs], it’s way lower than it used to be. The Stevie Nicks comparison is definitely something I hear more of now.”
In My Woman, Olsen deftly goes into “the complicated mess of being a woman”, but she’s not worried about revealing too much about herself and being vulnerable. “Even when I’m trying to be myself, people only ever focus on a small part of it! So I don’t mind being a hundred percent genuine and open in my writing, I’m comfortable enough in myself to handle it.”
The Croxton Bandroom. 607 High St, Thornbury 3071. www.thecroxton.com.au. 8pm. $51. Tue Nov 29.