Published Aug 31, 2016After "almost quitting music" following the alienating success of her 2014 breakout Burn Your Fire for No Witness, singer-songwriter Angel Olsen's third album, My Woman, finds the Asheville, NC resident eschewing linear evolution in favour of two distinct paths, employing a more direct, melodic approach than ever on the record's first half and sprawling out instrumentally on the second.
On side A, songs like "Intern," "Shut Up Kiss Me" and "Give it Up" find Olsen crafting hook after hook, barbing them with sharp, acerbic lyrics about being condescended to by press, confronting overly analytical, dithering lovers and the pain of unrequited love, respectively. It's powerful, resonant stuff, brought home by some of Olsen's most formidable songwriting to date.
On side B, Olsen embraces a more languid sound that she's described as purposely "less digestible or less accessible," but that satisfies her artistic impulse to stretch out and explore. "Sister" is perhaps the most spectacular song here, a nearly eight-minute epic that ends with a cacophony of crashing cymbals and a scintillating guitar solo that make it easily the most dynamic song on the side. Elsewhere, "Heart Shaped Face" and the similarly lengthy "Woman" are the kinds of long, hypnotic songs that might verge on boring were it not for Olsen's arresting drawl, knack for classic production (she's responsible for almost all of it here) and her evocative, moving lyricism ("Was it me you were thinking of, all that time when you thought of me?").
Ending with "Pops," a relatively concise, raw piano ballad — just Olsen and her instrument — feels like the perfect way for her to put an authoritative stamp on My Woman, a fascinating, affecting statement from a musician firmly in control of her artistry. (Jagjaguwar)