Last summer I saw a plug for an Angel Olsen show in Los Angeles on a friend’s social media page. I like this guy’s taste in music enough that I went on iTunes and came back with two of her albums. So she’s been in my ears and on my mind for some time now, and I noticed a few months ago that she’s touring… and on November 13th of this year, released a new album called Phases. That was like, two weeks ago – I preordered it from iTunes after downloading the teaser song and I’ve been really excited to hear it.
Anyway, yeah… I really don’t like Phases very much.
- actually, I really fucking hate it. Yes, I’m aware that her older releases are “lo-fi” to an extreme of sounding like having been recorded in a bathroom with the shower running on a Radio Shack necktie microphone, but I’d viewed the last two albums as sort of an “evolution” – or perhaps even “arrival.” Maybe is. Phases isn’t. Here then is why I don’t fucking like it, but I am going to fucking recommend the fuck out of fucking listening to it:
Angel Olsen is an artist, that’s why. She’s an extremely gifted songwriter. The gift she has as a songwriter is that she’s able to make art for ‘herself’ and still have an audience identify with it like it’s been catered to ‘their needs’ as well. That’s because she’s not performing material about:
- anything deeply personal
2. anything regarding current events and/or trends
3. anything containing a commonly used cliched metaphor such as, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” – or whatever like that in song titles and/or choruses that get shouted at candlelight vigils and ten years in the future after doing a bong hit to make the next person lose his hit in a convulsive coughing fit caused by laughter.
An ability to avoid these three utter bullshit “filler” themes is the mark of a great songwriter.
The reason I am disappointed in Phases, however; is that although the songs avoid becoming it, Phases is in itself utter bullshit filler – it’s mostly songs from old recording sessions, tracks that didn’t make the final cut, blah blah blah – which is great to receive as a fan, but reeks of “Oh right, I should have an album out because I’m touring. Fuck it. I’ll just throw together some old tracks and I’ll just throw in a new recording as a bonus… no, a centerpiece. No, not that – whatever; they’ll get it.”
But I don’t know if that’s anything at all what she was thinking, so I cannot assume that this was the case. At any rate, “whatever; they’ll get it” is this:
“Special” is probably a great song to play, record, and listen back to if it’s one that you’ve written.
That is one unnecessarily lengthy drawn out drone fest right there, but the atmosphere and the tone of the guitars is phenomenal. There. I’ve just described every track on this album. When I hear it as ‘someone who didn’t play on it’ being appreciative of ‘her playing on it’ makes me want to listen to ‘her playing on it’ put to use on one of her better compositions…
Like this one, from 2014’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness:
And Angel Olsen does have consistently great guitar tone even on her lo-fi murkiest of recordings. Not only that, but every live clip I’ve seen of her she delivers – and often simultaneously emotive and animated and perfect apathetic deadpan Wednesday Addams. And just like Wednesday Addams, there’s an endearing glimpse of psychosis in her eyes every single time.
This is what I picture her childhood as being like shortly before being quietly shipped off to boarding school:
Oh well. At least the Vox AC-30 made it, because I always see it in those live clips. Of course that’s why I’m recommending this Phases… I’m sure the songs translate live very well, and she actually is presently touring:
“OH, YOU DON’T SAY?!”
I fully intend on making the Boston show if I’m able to – so yes, this is me plugging Angel Olsen’s Phases tour and not the album – DO NOT buy this record unless you are a fan… or enjoy droning guitar hookless dirges a la Spacemen 3 and the like.
However, DO see her play live if you’re into very decent guitar tone, very decent songwriting, and overall very decent art. Then download the record when you get home from the show. Because she totally fucking rules and you will totally fucking want to. If that’s not enough, another selling point for seeing her live is presented in simply that.
Angel Olsen can even make a Fleetwood Mac song sound good. Not very many people can do this.
– it’s considered to be more or less completely fucking impossible.
Do yourself a favor: experience Angel Olsen live. Her PR apparently isn’t doing a very good job, because Burn Your Fire for No Witness and last year’s My Woman are both timeless, easily accessible to a wide range of listeners, utterly amazeballs fucking brilliant releases that should have made her name recognizable to even a 6,000 year old demonically possessed mystic/hermit living inside of some mountain in Afghanistan
- and that dude only speaks Aramaic. Plus he’s a cannibal.
My favorite track on Phases is “Fly On Your Wall” – which why Olsen didn’t choose to release a video for is beyond me… again, I’m trying to plug her live performances here, but I cannot seem to find any decent live clips of this song.
Whatever. Tour dates are on her website: https://angelolsen.com
– go and see one for yourself.
Angel Olsen has earned the right to put out a droning lo-fi recording if she wants to. She’s simply doing what an artist best does; which is expressing herself.
Plus she cleans up nice if that sort of thing makes any difference.
Although being unable appreciate an artist of her class without feeling the need to sexualize her grants Angel Olsen the right to hand the offender over to Demon Hermit-Cannibal. So don’t be a misogynistic idiot…
besides, look how the fat kid she electrocuted turned out:
Don’t be that guy. No one wants to be that guy. Simply allowing yourself to listen to and respectfully appreciate Angel Olsen a little bit whenever you’ve occasion to lessens the risk of ever becoming that guy significantly.
- but if you do get into a bind with Demon Hermit-Cannibal, I know a couple of Aramaic phrases that’ll get you off the hook. Just don’t let it get that far, okay?
Lemana Baala shabaktahni,
BA Psychology and BA Philosophy. Fairly useless degrees, but my education has bettered my ability to analyze people’s behaviors and describe them in flowery metaphors.
I play the banjo too. Maybe I just like being annoying.