by Bryce Browning
There is one human characteristic that is universally appealing, that everyone can recognize and respect: authenticity. Every artist and public figure deals with a constant struggle to balance who they are and what their perception "needs" to be. On top of that, musical acts have to deal with the even more difficult task of balancing the subject matter of their songs without creating superficial music that fills the Top 40.
Angel Olsen is authentic; she is real, raw, and crystal clear that she does not want to be put in a box or stereotype. MY WOMAN is a statement album about who Angel Olsen is and how she doesn’t have to be what others expect of her.
This is Olsen’s second album released on the Jagjaguwar record label, an indie powerhouse that is home to artists like Bon Iver, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Dinosaur Jr., and more. Her first album on the label, 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness, was a beautifully vulnerable folk album about a painful romance. The lo-fi and gentle folk tunes helped create an image of Angel Olsen as maybe this generation’s Joan Baez.
In her follow-up, she completely unleashed herself as a force more akin to Patti Smith, expressing fierce emotions with thoughtful lyrics. MY WOMAN hits hard and explores introspective thoughts about her feelings.
Speaking about the themes on MY WOMAN, Olsen said, "The complicated mess of being a woman … I’m definitely using scenes that I’ve replayed in my head, in the same way that I might write a script and manipulate a memory to get it to fit. But I think it’s important that people can interpret things the way that they want to."
That complicated mess is seen early on MY WOMAN. The second song on the album, "Never Be Mine," is a part doo-wop, part jangle-pop track where Olsen sings the lyrics, "Coming from an endless place / Heaven hits me when I see your face / I go blind, every time / Hate to have to watch you go / Thought I'd been through this / Lord knows, I've been trying, I'm still trying." Then, on the very next song, "Shut Up Kiss Me," she delivers a garage rock ballad while yelling at a man of interest. "Stop pretending I'm not there / When it's clear I'm not going anywhere / If I'm out of sight then take another look around / I'm still out there hoping to be found / Shut up, kiss me, hold me tight!"
The dichotomy of emotions for these two tracks starts the listener on a journey through mixed emotions that ebbs and flows throughout the album, and this journey is guided by the pure honesty of how she feels.
MY WOMAN also has tender moments spread throughout the entirety of its 47 minutes. Give a listen to the epic and sincere "Sister," where Angel Olsen sings to a hypothetical little sister and pleads her to not make the same mistakes Olsen made growing up. The best part is, Olsen does this in the unique way of saying that if she did have a younger sister, she would avoid many of her own heartaches in life. Olsen would have changed who she was if she knew that someone was looking up to her. Olsen follows up that with the groovy "Those Were the Days," where she trances you into a story about the innocent days of love past. Moments like this are where Angel Olsen opens up her thoughts and perspectives to the listener, making her music very accessible and intimate.
Angel Olsen is unapologetically herself, and she constructs a memorable album about the occasional complex emotions of young womanhood.
Song You Need To Hear: "Shut Up Kiss Me"