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Oldies But Goldies: Angel Olsen At The Echoplex, Sunday March 2nd 2014

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Angel

 

Angel Olsen will release a new album via Jagjaguwar on September 2nd, with production courtesy of Justin Raisen. She will certainly tour to promote it, as she has already announced many dates worldwide. So far we have only heard ‘Intern’ that she released on Youtube.

This new album, entitled ‘My Woman’, will follow her critically acclaimed (and favorite of mine) 2014’s ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’… but what a strange title! Despite the appearance, Olsen says the album isn’t necessarily a feminist manifesto, although it deals with ‘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,’ Olsen says in the press release. ‘But I think it’s important that people can interpret things the way that they want to.’

I saw Angel a few times, and this is a review of her 2014 show at the Echoplex, when she was not filling big theaters yet, but was already making everyone’s head turn.

‘Actually I am not the only one’, said Angel Olsen smiling and looking at the large crowd inside the Echoplex, just after singing the heartbreaking ‘Unfucktheworld’, in which she repeats seven times ‘I am the only one now’. Her guitar strap actually came off in the middle the song, but she didn’t seem to get even slightly disturbed by the incident. Totally in charge all night long, she had a very calm charisma and the confidence of an old soul. Angel did not give any long discourse but these short sentences between her songs were enough to build a strong connection with her audience which was already captivated by her performance. She sprinkled her performance with these simple ‘Hi’, just to reconnect with the crowd, but honestly everyone was already starring at her.

Angel Olsen has a rare gift, and her music is all about her voice that she can modulate to infinity, giving all the range of human emotions in just a minute, getting fierce, morose or even breaking like a crying little girl the next second. On Sunday night she never let her outstanding and impressive organ overwhelmed by the instruments, even when she was surrounded by her band of three musicians, Emily Elhaj (bass), Josh Jaeger (drums) and Stewart Bronaugh (guitar).

‘Thanks to the young man who bought me this’, she said holding a glass after the delicious vintage country vibe of ‘Hi Five’, ‘I hope there isn’t any substance in there’. Angel Olsen is ready to give you her heart in her songs but she doesn’t reveal too much about her,… what young man, Angel? I wanted to know more about this story but no such chance! She even run away with the setlist when she left the stage at the end of the show, as if she wanted to preserve all the mystery surrounding her mesmerizing performance.

She mostly concentrated on her last album ‘Burn your Fire For no Witness’, alternating between her quiet and confessional songs and her ‘loud’ and angry ones, such as ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’, a song that makes me want to run away with all the anger, despair and unrequited love the heart can contain. ‘I don’t know anything/but I love you/yes, I do’ she sang without moving a bit. Angel has a way to fixate the crowd without really looking at anyone, her sight lost in some haze that you desperately want to join but really can’t. She is the one that subdues and charms without even trying to.

‘I just have a few more’, she said before playing ‘White Fire’, ‘What an audacity!’ I had seen the Echoplex this full many times, but I had never seen it this quiet! During the hypnotic and devastating song, the crowd was completely silent, seemingly afraid to even move a toe, while Angel was singing with a voice that managed to be both extremely low and powerful. ‘Everything is tragic/It all just falls apart’ she sang as if she was almost speaking to herself with an internal and soulful hushed tone, but there was a rare strength emanating from this whisper.

She came back for a short encore with ‘Iota’ which may start like an early McCartney song and move slowly like a Antonio Carlos Jobim tune, haunted by Olsen’s lovely voice. I guess I am totally bias when it comes to Olsen, I discovered her last album a few weeks ago and was instantaneously under the charm. That’s why I was a bit anxious on Sunday night, she could have totally disappointed me but her performance couldn’t have been further from a let-down. She brought her album to another level, bringing subtle nuances in the way she pronounced certain lyrics, the way she modulates her voice, flying high with some Roy Orbison-like croons, then falling like a wounded bird. ‘But I’m giving you my heart, my heart/Are you giving me your heart?/Your heart/Are you lonely too?/Are you lonely too?/Hi-five, so am I’, she quietly lamented before bursting in triumph during ‘Hi Five’, and so much had happened in such a short amount of time. Everything is about subtlety with Angel, and what distinguishes her from herds of boring singers with close-to-perfect voices, is her genuine ability to go through so much interesting nuances from song to song. If you see her, I can guarantee this voice will stay with you for a long time. Live, it becomes this truly palpable thing, able to break your heart in pieces with just a slight vocal inflection and bringing it back to life with a close-to-yodel expressive surge. Her voice is as calming, luxurious and voluptuous than her songs are honest, authentic, and intimate. I just hope Angel will continue to burn her fire for a long time, but she can’t expect to do it without any witness anymore.

Setlist

UnfuckTheWorl

Hi Five

Free

Lights Out

Stars

Forgiven/Forgotten

The Waiting?

High & Wild

Tiniest Seeds

Windows

White Fire

May As Well

Encore

Iota

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