Posts Tagged ‘Angel Olsen’

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Angel Olsen has announced a new album called “Whole New Mess”, the first material she’s recorded and released without any bandmates since 2012’s Half Way Home. It’s out August 28th via Jagjaguwar Records. Watch a video for “Whole New Mess” below. The time had come, Angel Olsen realized in the fading summer of 2018, to take her new songs out of the house. Olsen’s 2016 marvel, My Woman, had been a career breakthrough, but it catalyzed a period of personal tumult, too: a painful breakup, an uneasy recovery, an inadequate reckoning. At home in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Olsen penned songs that finally grappled with these troubles, particularly love—how forever is too much to promise, how relationships can lock us into static versions of ourselves, how you can go through hell just to make someone else happy.

Find physical editions of Angel Olsen’s Whole New Mess at Rough TradeOlsen recorded Whole New Mess in October 2018 at The Unknown, the church-turned-studio run by Phil Elverum and Nicholas Wilbur in Anacortes, Washington. The album features more intimate versions of several songs that appeared on last year’s All Mirrors. Olsen explained her approach in a brief statement:

I had gone through this breakup, but it was so much bigger than that—I’d lost friendships, too. When you get out of a relationship, you have to examine who you are or were in all the relationships. I wanted to record when I was still processing these feelings. These are the personal takes, encapsulated in a moment.

At least nine of the eleven songs on Whole New Mess should sound familiar to anyone who has heard All Mirrors, Olsen’s grand 2019 masterpiece that earned high honours on prestigious year-end lists and glossy spreads in stylish magazines. “Lark,” “Summer,” “Chance”—they are all here, at least in some skeletal form and with slightly different titles. But these are not the demos for All Mirrors. Instead, Whole New Mess is its own record with its own immovable mood, with Olsen working through her open wounds and raw nerves with just a few guitars and some microphones, isolated in a century-old church in the Pacific Northwest. If the lavish orchestral arrangements and cinematic scope of All Mirrors are the sound of Olsen preparing her scars for the wider world to see, Whole New Mess is the sound of her first figuring out their shape, making sense for herself of these injuries.

Angel Olsen “Whole New Mess”

Hand Habits, in partnership with Saddle Creek Records and Bandcamp, will be donating all of the profits raised from the EP to the Amazon Conservation Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, that has been protecting the Western Amazon for almost 20 years.

“Being a touring musician 8 months out of the year, you are exposed to a lot of varying degrees of climate change effects in a short period of time. From the gasoline that’s used to fuel touring vehicles, to the massive amount of plastic waste at the end of every show, to the carbon emissions released into the air by all the travel, it’s often not the most environmentally conscious career. I wanted to contribute, even if in a small way, to the efforts at work by the people at the Amazon Conservation Association for being dedicated to preserving such a vast and heartbreakingly crucial part of our ecosystem that has been threatened by wildfires, deforestation, and the effects of climate change.

I believe that writing and performing music can be a healing force, used for good, and not always for capitalizing on emotions and commodifying a personality or lifestyle. People need to be able to relate to each other, in times of joy, and especially in times of sorrow or struggle. The Wildfire Compilation, in partnership with Bandcamp and Saddle Creek, will be donating all of it’s funds raised to the ACA in hopes to lend a helping hand to those on the front lines of fighting climate change in places that may seem inaccessible to those of us unable to travel at length.
I chose 5 artists, Tara Jane O’Neil, Lomelda, John Andrews, Angel Olsen, and Kacey Johansing to interpret and cover my song “wildfire” that I wrote during the California Wildfires in 2017. All of these artists are dear friends and have all taught me a lot about the complexity of emotions in music.”
Released December 25th, 2019

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The first line-up announcement for End of The Road 2020! Pixies, King Krule, Angel Olsen, Big Thief, Bright Eyes + loads more.

Featured Track: “Alec Eiffel” by Pixies. Written by Charles Thompson,

“All Mirrors” is the type of record Patsy Cline would have made if she had access to synthesizers. It’s a dazzling tour de force, a record that centers on Olsen’s alternately pleading and commanding voice, surrounding it with lush, rococo swells of strings and electronics. That Olsen was always a great singer was not the question, but never has her prowess shone as brightly as it does in these stately, turbulent songs.

Angel Olsen’s second release, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, was a collection of her early work, where the production was dark-folk sparse. But for “All Mirrors”, she returned to the lush tapestry audiences first experienced on 2016’s My Woman, and the resulting recording is a taut, mesmerizing forty-nine minutes of sonic poetry. While there’s a bevy of modern elements at play—Stereolab-style space grooves on “Too Easy,” warm analog synth lines on “New Love Cassette,” a bouncy electronic twang on “What It Is”—the music here shimmers with a timeless patina. These songs are portraits of heartbreak, triumph, and love that could have been penned fifty years ago, yesterday, or a century from now. So despite its electronic flourishes, All Mirrors feels simultaneously of the moment and firmly embedded in the American songbook.

Olsen is a virtuoso vocalist, and across eleven tracks, she whispers as much as she wails, the oscillation of her instrument intoxicating. Opening track “Lark” sets the tone and finds her in the midst of a romantic detonation, offering up lines like, “This  city’s changed, it’s not what it was / Back  when you loved me.” By the wash of the strings on “Tonight,” where Olsen’s voice is husky, tired, and confessing that while her love remains, she’s better off alone, listeners are firmly in her grip. With its Spaghetti-Western guitar strum, “Summer” is another poignant peak, where Olsen radiates the kind of strength you only get from going through hell and coming out the other side. The closer, “Chance,” balances her extraordinary voice along with her silence against a sentiment that every lover knows but hates to hear: “Hard to say forever, love.” It’s a perfect punctuation for the album’s emotional odyssey, and it’ll make you want to experience it all over again.

On the title track she compares a lover’s smile to being “buried alive,” and on the bleak, ghostly “Impasse,” she icily sings, “Go on, on ahead / tell your friends I was wrong / Take it all out on me.” All of the album’s potential energy exploded in the live setting, where it became something else entirely—grand, gothy, doomy, and spectacular. All Mirrors is a tornado in an antique teacup: elegant craftsmanship and detailing, containing a powerful storm.

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Five artists cover Meg Duffy’s “placeholder” song, with all proceeds going toward the Amazon Conservation Association. Meg Duffy aka Hand Habits has announced the “Wldfire Covers” EP, which sees five artists cover Duffy’s placeholder song “wildfire.” The EP, which is led by Hand Habits’ original, features covers by Angel Olsen, Lomelda, Kacey Johansing, Tara Jane O’Neil and John Andrews & The Yawns.

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releases December 25th, 2019

Meg Duffy wrote “wildfire” during the California wildfires in 2017. In a statement, they said:

Being a touring musician eight months out of the year, you are exposed to a lot of varying degrees of climate change effects in a short period of time. From the gasoline that’s used to fuel touring vehicles, to the massive amount of plastic waste at the end of every show, to the carbon emissions released into the air by all the travel, it’s often not the most environmentally conscious career. I wanted to contribute, even if in a small way, to the efforts at work by the people at the Amazon Conservation Association for being dedicated to preserving such a vast and heartbreakingly crucial part of our ecosystem that has been threatened by wildfires, deforestation, and the effects of climate change. I believe that writing and performing music can be a healing force, used for good, and not always for capitalizing on emotions and commodifying a personality or lifestyle. People need to be able to relate to each other, in times of joy, and especially in times of sorrow or struggle. The Wildfire Compilation, in partnership with Bandcamp and Saddle Creek, will be donating all of its funds raised to the ACA in hopes to lend a helping hand to those on the front lines of fighting climate change in places that may seem inaccessible to those of us unable to travel at length. I chose five artists, Tara Jane O’Neil, Lomelda, John Andrews, Angel Olsen, and Kacey Johansing to interpret and cover my song “wildfire” that I wrote during the California Wildfires in 2017. All of these artists are dear friends and have all taught me a lot about the complexity of emotions in music.

Angel Olsen  “All Mirrors”, her fourth and quite possibly most anticipated release to date. Described by Angel as a record about, “owning up to your darkest side, finding the capacity for new love and trusting change”,

“Lark” Clocking in at over six minutes, and featuring an 11-piece string section, could easily be mistaken for Angel at her most bombastic and impersonal, yet there’s another side to Lark hiding beneath the dense arrangements. “Hiding out inside my head, it’s me again, it’s no surprise, I’m on my own now”for all the grandeur, this is Angel at her most personal and insular. It’s a track that almost feels like being trapped in your own head, there’s a claustrophobia to the strings and the repetitive pounding drums, yet at the centre of it all is a singular voice, whether accompanied by John Barry-like strings or a meditative Velvet Underground-like pulse, it’s always that voice, above all else, that demands your attention. It may lack the instant sugary thrills of Shut Up Kiss Me or the raw angsty charms of Hi-Five, yet as Lark slowly worms into your brain, it already feels like Angel’s finest work to date.

From her very earliest recordings, Angel Olsen has mined drama from her relationships with physically present but psychologically absent partners. Across her often-brilliant catalog, the Asheville singer/songwriter has sung candidly about staying with these partners despite recognizing their awful qualities.

“All Mirrors” is out October 4th via Jagjaguwar Records.

“Lark” by Angel Olsen from ‘All Mirrors’ out October 4th on Jagjaguwar Records.

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The descent into darkness is a trope we find time again across history, literature and film. But there’s also an abyss above. There’s a winding white staircase that goes ever upward into the great unknown – each step, each turn, requiring a greater boldness and confidence than the one before. This is the journey on which we find Angel Olsen. The singer-songwriter’s artistic beginnings as a collaborator shifted seamlessly to her magnificent, cryptic-to-cosmic solo work, and then she formed bands to play her songs, and her stages and audiences grew exponentially. But all along, Angel Olsen was more concerned with a different kind of path, and on her vulnerable, new album, “All Mirrors”, we can see her taking an introspective deep dive towards internal destinations and revelations. In the process of making this album, she found a new sound and voice, a blast of fury mixed with hard won self-acceptance.

By her usually prolific standards, it’s been a long time between albums for Angel Olsen. “All Mirrors” is her first album for three years – an epic gap given that she used to average an LP a year in the early stage of her career. As usual, Olsen has redefined her sound once more, offering up impassioned songs that come backed by bold, wall of sound style production from John Congleton.

There are many moments of stirring intensity, where swirling strings, eccentric electronics and low-slung indie-rock grooves join forces to create stunning and arresting musical works of art. The more contemplative moments often sound a little like “Mezzanine”-era Massive Attack or Portishead, though Olsen’s voice and Congleton’s production are always unique enough to make comparisons with those bands moot.

The mid-album ballad, “Spring.” Over warm, gently warped piano, Olsen opens with advice: “Don’t take it for granted, love when you have it,” she singe, before observing almost in passing how quickly time flies: “Remember when we said we’d never have children, I’m holding your baby now that we’re older.”

For anyone who’s ever invested too heavily in a hypothetical future, or mentally broken apart every minuscule bit of a fresh and failed romance, that lyric can be a terrifying reminder that we will never know what will happen next. Olsen says as much in the next few lines: “I’m beginning to wonder if anything’s real, guess we’re just at the mercy of the way that we feel.”

Her message never veers into existential-panic territory, though, instead held steady by the song’s even-paced, rolling rhythm, and Olsen’s fuzzy vocals, hovering like a reassuring guide. She ends her gentle journey on the only piece of certainty she has access to: the fragile and fleeting present. “So give me some heaven, just for a while,” she sings, before her falsetto takes off into the heavens: “Make it eternal, there in your smile.”

“Spring” is the song that stayed with me the longest, through my dozens upon dozens of replays lying in my darkened bedroom, cooking with my roommates in my kitchen, singing by myself in the shower, like a forever-looping Twilight Zone-ish theme song. There is no true rhyme or reason to anything; there are just things that happen to us and people we meet, and we should try to enjoy everything while it lasts. It may not be a satisfactory revelation and — don’t get me wrong — it will emotionally wreck you. But once the tides of perpetual uncertainty subside, it’ll feel quite freeing.

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Angel Olsen is a master of shifting our perception of her. Each one of her albums has been a sweeping evolution—sonic, musical, conceptual—that has made its predecessor seem humble by comparison. “All Mirrors,” is the title track of her upcoming fourth album, immediately sounds bigger than anything she’s done before. Initial listens will leave you overwhelmed by the string arrangement: an ominous, heroic swell over a synthy pulse, the troubled waters that connect the song’s two parts.

Some of Olsen’s songs feel like they’ve always existed—lost country standards or themes from old romantic films—but “All Mirrors” is mostly alien. She centers its movement on just one vocal melody, loosening and intensifying her delivery as if holding onto something delicate in a windstorm. Even her one-of-a-kind voice, the constant through her work, gets coated in silvery new effects.

Underneath all these layers is a deceptively stark composition, a plea for consistency whose cryptic lyrics seem to be carved out of a larger story. In the accompanying video, with imagery that falls between Greek myth and science fiction, Olsen succumbs to a void of demonic hands, undergoes a transformation, and locks eyes with a crowned doppelgänger in some smoky purgatory. She alludes to all these selves in the chorus, describing her reflection as something constantly changing, in danger of disappearing completely: “At least at times it knew me,” she sings, face-to-face with the mystery.

“All Mirrors” by Angel Olsen from ‘All Mirrors’ out October 4th on Jagjaguwar Records.

Marissa Nadler: <i>For My Crimes</i> Review

Marissa Nadler is comfortably the most consistent folk artist plucking an acoustic guitar right now. With eight studio albums in 14 years—not a dud among them—plus a number of self-released records, EPs, guest spots, and compilation appearances, she boasts the super prolific output of studio-loitering rappers, productive paperback writers, or Samuel L. Jackson. But For My Crimes might well be the best record in her saintly catalog. After the heavier, post-rock atmospherics of her fine 2016 release Strangers, Nadler opts for a more stripped-down ethos.

Maybe this is a wild misreading, but Marissa Nadler doesn’t get nearly enough credit—or any at all, really—for having a sense of humour. Her wit is as dry as it as subtle on her eighth album, a collection of songs that are also disconsolate and foreboding. Those traits are how the Boston singer is more generally known, and for good enough reason: Nadler favors a harrowing folk sound that she calls “slow music,” full of spectral, minor-key musical arrangements that emphasize guitars, piano and strings. She rarely uses drums, which sometimes gives the impression that her songs are untethered to anything more than her voice.

Nadler’s vocals are at once soft and steely on lyrics with a poetic, sometimes gothic streak. It’s a very intentional, stylized approach, which makes her flashes of wit all the more startling. Yet there’s a droll undertone to parts of For My Crimes. On “All Out of Catastrophes,” Nadler ratchets up the melodrama to teetering heights, and when her lover mumbles another woman’s name in his sleep, she breaks the tension by observing, “It was the nicest thing you said.” She mentions someone wanting to fake his death “again” on the quietly poppy “Flamethrower,” and offers a skeptical rebuke in the title of “Are You Really Gonna Move to the South?” It’s sensual and melancholy, and Nadler’s voice floats atop finger picked acoustic guitar and an aching high harmony part.

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There are darker themes on For My Crimes. Nadler sings the title track from the perspective of a death row inmate pleading to not be remembered for his transgressions. Her vocals are calm and matter-of-fact, and Angel Olsen contributes a harmony part mixed far enough back that it hovers like a shadow. “I Can’t Listen to Gene Clark Anymore” captures the feeling of swearing off a favorite singer whose music dredges up once-fond memories, with trebly electric guitar strumming, sad, spiraling violins and plus vocals from Sharon Van Etten. Album closer “Say Goodbye to That Car” is unexpectedly poignant as Nadler thinks back on her associations with the old beater, and turns the odometer reading into a hypnotic refrain over a spare guitar part. The riff on “Blue Vapor” strains against the limits of the song, injecting a sense of urgency, while Nadler and guest Kristin Kontrol of Dum Dum Girls send their voices spiraling upward, alternately intertwining and tangling. It’s perhaps the most forceful moment on an album built on understated power, evocative lyrics and Nadler’s lithe voice—and, just maybe, a hint or two of sly humor.

The eighth album from Marissa Nadler, “For My Crimes”, is the sound of turmoil giving way to truth. The songs stare down the dark realization that love may not be enough to keep two people together through distance and differing needs. By asking these difficult questions about her relationships, Nadler has found a stronger sense of self and a sharper voice as both a songwriter and a vocalist, culminating in her most evocative entry in an already impressive discography. The album is set for release on September 28th, via Bella Union and Sacred Bones.

Following the release of 2016’s acclaimed Strangers, Nadler’s relationships were put to the test as she left the Boston area on tour. She wrote throughout 2017 about this tension, and ended up with three times as many songs as she needed. But after reviewing the demos with her co-producers Justin Raisen and Lawrence Rothman, Nadler wrote a flurry of tight but no less intense new songs in the week before arriving at Rothman’s Laurel Canyon studio, House of Lux, in early January. She considered it a challenge to herself, applying new strategies and structures to the craft of “slow music” she’s honed over the last 15 years. From that group of songs came nearly all of the singles on For My Crimes, some of the most indelible of Nadler’s career.

The opening title track is classic Nadler: a sweeping, vaguely Southern drama of voices, strings, and acoustic guitar, that walks the fine line between character song and personal indictment by metaphor. “For My Crimes” spawned out of a songwriting exercise in which Nadler wrote from the perspective of someone on death row, but the song casts a dark shadow over an album that turns marital conflict into inner reflection. Helping Nadler dig down into the song’s remorseful soul is her old friend Angel Olsen, who serves as a distraught echo from beyond in the chorus.

“Blue Vapor” has an intoxicating raw energy luring you in, somewhere between Springsteen and a grunge band playing MTV Unplugged back in the day. It feels at once tight and improvisational, balancing on little more than Nadler’s steady strumming and vulnerable harmonies with Kristin Kontrol (of Dum Dum Girls), until the heavy, purposeful style of Hole drummer Patty Schemel conjures chaos in the second half. This slow burn feeling is all too appropriate for a song centered around repeating patterns and creeping numbness in a relationship. “Blue Vapor” names that strange ambivalence and turns it into a chant that hangs in the air long after the song ends.

Dreaminess and eeriness have often been two sides of the same coin in Marissa Nadler songs. Where “For My Crimes” and “Blue Vapor” come from her dark side, the album has plenty of moments that twinkle in their sadness and sentimentality. “I Can’t Listen to Gene Clark Anymore” is one of those highly specific songs you’ll get if you’ve ever lost a favorite band to your own broken heart. It sways perfectly in its bittersweetness, like a slow dance you never want to end. After the strings swell and the bass pedals kick in, Nadler coos, “Cause I remember/The songs you sang/To me when it was you/I was falling for.”

Later, closing track “Said Goodbye To That Car” turns a final odometer reading into a rhythm for a catchy, wistful hook: “1-1-9-6-5-7, and the engine blew/“1-1-9-6-5-7, and I thought of you,” Nadler lulls, harmonizing with herself. It’s an ingenious way to capture the end of an era in one small moment, and she moves as delicately as you would handling an old photo with her sweet oohs.

Bolstering the intimacy of these songs is the strong feminine energy that defined their recording. Between Rothman’s fluidity with both gender and genre (as heard on his 2017 album The Book of Law), and Raisen’s track record of successful collaborations with strong women (Olsen, Kim Gordon, Charli XCX), Nadler felt empowered to explore without judgement in the studio. With the exception of a single saxophonist, every player on the album is a woman of notable pedigree and distinct style, many of whom have played with Nadler over the years. In addition to the cameos by Angel Olsen and Kristin Kontrol, Sharon Van Etten sings backup on “I Can’t Listen to Gene Clark Anymore” and “Lover Release Me.” Mary Lattimore joins on harp for “Are You Really Gonna Move to the South,” while the great experimental multi-instrumentalist Janel Leppin plays strings throughout the record.

These women and others helped make For My Crimes as dynamic as it is intimate, but Nadler’s mesmerizing voice stripped of nearly all reverb  is what sits at the center of these songs. You can hear the emotional range of her performances more than ever before, from the spectral harmonizing of “Are You Really Gonna Move To The South” to the cheeky boredom of “All Out Of Catastrophes,” two other highlights. As a singer, she has never sounded more confident than she does here.

Adding to the album’s deeply personal feeling is its abstracted artwork, featuring Nadler’s original oil paintings. Though Nadler is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and a semi-retired art teacher (she has one student left a 95-year-old named Doris), For My Crimes marks the first album cover bearing one of her paintings. She also channeled the album’s themes into paintings corresponding to specific tracks, which will be included as prints in the limited edition version of For My Crimes (and in some cases, for sale as originals on Nadler’s website).

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releases September 28th, 2018