Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 20 Pop & Rock Albums, Part One



16. Angel Olsen
Burn Your Fire For No Witness
(Jagjaguwar)

At this year's SXSW Music Festival in Austin, TX, one of the most anticipated debuts was Missouri-born Angel Olsen, who packed the early crowd into the front pews of a 175-year-old church. A more appropriate venue couldn't have been chosen for the singer-songwriter and guitarist; her second album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, evokes a Southern preacher's sermon, an arresting collection of scorched earth love songs and well-crafted folk ballads about loss and redemption.

Working with producer John Congleton, Olsen's evocative, warbling voice is still centre stage on songs like "Forgiven/Forgotten" and "High And Wild," which crackle with a newfound electricity and feature kick drums that feel like a punt to the heart. While her tone never rises above a conversational murmur on the appropriately titled "Unfucktheworld" and sombre closing number "Windows," there's nothing hushed about the Hank Williams-referencing mid-tempo "Hi-Five," on which Olsen asks "Are you lonely too?" before exclaiming "High five!"

Rarely has solitude sounded so utterly triumphant. (Max Mertens)