One of the things that I’m always fearful of when listening to a musician working under their own name is that the music will have a tendency to get stuck in one space; it can make for a boring listen, despite your initial interest. Luckily, that’s not how the story of Burn Your Fire for No Witness unfolds; Angel Olsen and her band have constructed a record that holds enough diversity to keep you guessing at every track.
“Unfucktheworld” had me immediately. There’s an intimacy of the strummed guitar that’s striking, but even more appealing is how the recording still holds a bit of the buzz and crackle; it creates a sense of sincerity that one hopes for from a singer-songwriter. But, she doesn’t stay there for too long, moving quickly into her best rock version with “Forgiven/Forgotten.” It’s a sound that purifies the space between Vivian Girls and Screaming Females, and it serves Burn Your Fire for No Witness well by adding some movement within the album’s first moments.
For my two cents, if you’re asking, I appreciate the songs where Angel Olsen has her voice hiding just below the main mix. “Dance Slow Decades” is one such song, allowing for the listener to attend to every minor detail for the first minute or so, just before the vocal explodes with a hollow drum beat emphasizing the emotional touch. It’s a stark contrast to the following track “Enemy,” which creeps me out in an odd manner; it seems like Olsen is sitting next to me singing into my ear. Although there’s still that quiver in her voice that comes with personal expression, I prefer to keep a bit more distance, playing the role of musical voyeur.
Still, the best part of the record is the diversity that goes into every track, even into the length of the songs. As times, Angel has this sultry troubadour quality like in her performance on “High and Wild,” but she can still manage to have this pristine vocal quality on display; she does this remarkably well in the album closer, “Windows.” These things seem like minor details, but they make the album something that exists beyond the confines of a single track, begging you to sit with it for the entirety of your listen…this is a rare feat nowadays.
When you’re finished listening to Angel Olsen‘s new album, you’re going to find that you’ll have to go back and listen again. It’s an album that holds no great single, but rather unfolds as an undeniably wonderful listen from start to finish. It’s easy to find an artist losing themselves and their listeners in one place while crafting a record, but that’s the opposite of what you’ll find while listening to Burn Your Fire for No Witness.
Download: Angel Olsen – Forgiven/Forgotten [MP3]