Photo by Autumn Northcraft
Angel Olsen’s 2012 full-length debut Half Way Home is a big, bold album, but you won’t find many electric instruments on it. Instead, the power comes from Olsen’s voice, which can swoop from fragile beauty to violent grandeur in the space of a few syllables. At times, Half Way Home feels like it’s going to burst at the seams from trying to contain the young Chicago native.
Olsen cut her teeth as a backing singer for Bonnie “Prince” Billy, but even that phenomenal singer conceded that she deserved to be front-and-center. Following the glowing praise for Half Way Home, Olsen quickly released the fuzzed-out “Sweet Dreams” as a single. The stylistic left-turn served to be a primer for her new direction. On February 18, Olsen will release Burn Your Fire For No Witness, and its first single bursts out of the speakers with punk-like intensity. “Forgiven/Forgotten” is another tour-de-force for Olsen’s dramatic singing, and the sentiment is a perfect match. “If there’s one thing I fear / there’s one thing I fear/ it’s knowing you’re around / so close but not here,” she practically cries, while buzzsaw guitars slash around her. John Congleton–whose credits include barn-burners like St. Vincent and the Walkmen–acts as producer, but he largely stays out of Olsen’s way. She’s already found her unique voice–it’s just a matter of finding instruments and musicians that can keep up.