Angel Olsen - My Woman
The relentless opening tracks of Angel Olsen’s My Woman scurry by at such a pace there's a worry the Missourian, hitherto known for her gritty country themes, may lose her feet. Success breeds confidence and Olsen has a cupboard of fancy new shoes to run with, starting with her clean tremulous voice on ‘Intern’, high in the mix where it belongs: her prior album’s snazzy production no longer allowed to obfuscate her stories. ‘Never Be Mine’ contrasts hopeful and wary teenage troubles reminding of all-time great Jackie DeShannon, whose ‘When You Walk in the Room’ was importantly covered by male and female artists alike. We wait for Olsen to break into Roy Orbison with, “Shut up kiss me hold me tight / Stop your crying it’s alright”, but it’s too soon for too much heartbreak.
Olsen’s respect for lineage includes the concept of a double-sided LP, synthesised here. ‘Heart Shaped Face’ shatters the A-side’s palliative euphoria with a side-eyed glance at her partner across the room, “Was it me you were thinking of all that time when you thought of me / Or was it your mother.” Her lips, like the edges of a wound, purse. She’s seething. The m-word stabs like a knife. There’s varied narrators, different people, or the same person at different stages of their life, describing physical dependency’s temporary fragility. ‘Woman’ bares its vocals, “With no promise of the future / Am I not allowed to think kindly of a stranger.” Earlier, heartstrings were pulled, now they’re yanked to ensure the blood flows freely. ‘Sister’’s narrator addresses herself in the album’s most personal track, exposing the listener to a warm Laurel Canyon sun, its tempo pressing hard against the accelerator to leave one’s hometown, “Live it through your eyes / Piece us together / Know that this wild road / Will go on forever.”
A work good for the soul rather than reassuring for the ego. My Woman opens a multiple-voiced window into a knotty culture, both album sides’ emboldenment sweeping up the listener with their flawed, heartfelt nature.