Angel Olsen’s My Woman

Angel Olsen is messing with you. Placing “Intern” in the opening slot on her latest album, My Woman, and releasing it as her first single was a calculated trap, set to disarm listeners and make them question their expectations. The beautiful but confounding video only confirmed any suspicion of foul play. Here she stood, the stunning artist you knew and loved from Burn Your Fire For No Witness, wearing a sparkling, silver wig, confronting you with a steady, almost defiant stare while synth tones swirled around her unmistakable croon. This wasn’t the Angel Olsen that you knew and loved, this was someone new but equally intriguing. What was the rest of My Woman going to sound like? Would it be a *gasp* pop record?

No. Olsen’s third album is definitely not a pop record, but it’s not any type of record in particular either. It’s just a further exploration of her sound and her identity as an artist. This shouldn’t come as any real surprise to fans who have followed her since the beginning of her solo career. 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness revealed an equally noticeable shift, as she electrified the folk songs of her debut Half Way Home, infusing them with the bold, punk attitude of the woman behind them.

My Woman is another evolution, finding Olsen trying on genres and identities like one does hats, testing to see which one fits. Starting with “Intern,” Olsen gives a nod to the breathy femininity of ‘60s French pop stars like Françoise Hardy. “Never Be Mine” is a country-tinged torch song. “Shut Up Kiss Me” is a garage rock romp. “Not Gonna Kill You” is a brooding nod to PJ Harvey, a song that’s all Id and no romance. In other words, this is an album that is decidedly not folk. Despite the outward disparities, all of the songs flow seamlessly together, combining to create Olsen’s best record yet.

In the recent past, Angel Olsen has expressed a frustration with being pigeonholed. My Woman is an effort to shrug off any preconceived notions of what kind of music she’s making and who she is as an artist. It’s a rejection of any label previously attached to her and her music, and could perhaps also be argued as a statement on labels and expectations that are thrust on women in the music industry and beyond.

B-Side track “Woman” is a declaration that Olsen belongs to herself and no one else. She confronts the listener, demanding, “Tell me what I wouldn’t do. Tell me that love isn’t true. I dare you to understand what makes me a woman.” I’d like to think that she isn’t just talking about herself, but of all women. Try to define us and we’ll shirk expectations, suddenly displaying a new complicated, messy, but equally beautiful side. No track embodies this complexity more than the extraordinary “Sister.” What starts as a simple, downtempo love song suddenly explodes into an epic existential jam worthy of Neil Young or Fleetwood Mac. But that’s the thing about Angel Olsen — just when you think you have her figured out, she shifts and transforms, revealing a fresh layer that both surprises and thrills.

  • olivia wilde

    After releasing her first EP, Strange Cacti,[6] and a debut album, Half Way Home,[7] on Bathetic Records, Olsen signed with Jagjaguwar,[8] ahead of her first full-band record, Burn Your Fire for No Witness,[9] which was released on 17 February 2014.[10][11] Olsen’s third full-length album, My Woman, was released on September 2, 2016.[12][13]
    In addition to her work with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and The Cairo Gang, Olsen has collaborated with a number of other notable figures of American indie rock, including Tim Kinsella of Cap’n Jazz and LeRoy Bach of Wilco.[14] Her collaboration with Kinsella and Bach, as well as with Chicago poet Marvin Tate, resulted in the album “Tim Kinsella sings the songs of Marvin Tate by LeRoy Bach featuring Angel Olsen,” which the group released on Indianapolis label Joyful Noise Recordings on December 3, 2013.
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  • ashlaydown

    Angel Olsen (born January 22, 1987) is an American folk and indie rock singer and guitarist who was raised in St. Louis, Missouri[1][2] and currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina.[3] She has recorded and toured as a backing singer with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and the Cairo Gang,[4] before embarking on her own career.
    At age three, Olsen was adopted by a foster family that had cared for her since shortly after her birth. The difference in years between her and her parents (73 and 85 as of March 2016) left an impression. “Because there are so many decades of difference between us, I became more interested in what their childhood was like,” she says of her parents, both of whom still live in St. Louis. “I fantasized about what it was like to be young in the ’30s and ’50s, more so than other kids my age.”[3] Olsen explained that “my mother just has this capacity for children.”[3] Despite early adolescent aspirations to be a “pop star”, her interests later shifted in high school. Olsen became more introverted, interested in punk rock and attending Christian rock shows. She began learning the piano and guitar and writing her own music.[3] Two years after graduating from Tower Grove Christian High School, Olsen moved to Chicago.

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