Welcome to Basement Dwelling, where I review new records that should be on your musical radar. What sets Basement Dwelling apart from other music review columns is that these are all albums that are currently residing in my record collection. No promo copy was given, no stream was listened to. Instead, a physical copy of an album was purchased before I listened to it. Don’t think of me as a critic, but as a music obsessive looking to open a dialogue about some of the best tunes that are currently being released.
Let’s head down to the basement and listen to My Woman by Angel Olsen…
Being typecast in the world of music is an incredibly easy thing, especially living in an age of needing to abide by brands or personas to uphold a specific lifestyle. And if you’re a woman? Forget about it. It makes that whole process even more arduous and annoying.
The intent of Angel Olsen’s third full length being titled My Woman has all the intention one could get from it. Olsen has nothing to prove to you but everything to prove to herself and show what she is made of. And apparently what she’s made of is quite significant, because My Woman is an absolutely phenomenal record.
My Woman is following hot on the heels of Olsen’s critically lauded (and much adored by yours truly) second release, 2014’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness. Olsen delivered an LP of amazingly written indie-folk tracks that stands by and large above her peers. What makes Burn Your Fire so great is that, while being a very somber affair, every track on that record enjoys a level of craft and atmosphere that makes repeated listening a must — something that is sometimes missed by fellow artists within Olsen’s genre. This trend continues on My Woman, there being an even larger emphasis on those qualities I just listed above.
Atmosphere is put into play right from the get go with album opener and lead single, “Intern,” a floaty, synth head space of a track that puts into question the anxieties one would face doing exactly what Angel does (performing on lengthy tours, recording albums, and if the whole process is even worth it in the long run). An interesting quality that I picked up about My Woman is that the record almost plays off into two halves, a quality that can be respected and done more frequently now that we as a music audience are veering into a second age of consuming music via a wax cylinder (*cough* vinyl *cough*). It’s cool how Olsen implements this concept on the record.
The airiness of “Intern” is immediately ditched following that track, revealing another reason why I love Olsen so much as a songwriter: hooks. And My Woman is filled with plenty of catchy hooks and tracks that lend themselves to be replayed as soon as they’re over. “Never Be Mine’s” baked-in-the-sun southern twang and “Shut Up Kiss Me’s” stomp, swagger and mind-infecting chorus are both first-half highlights that not only exhibit why Olsen is so good at what she does, but reveals how much she’s still allowed to grow following her already impressive body of work.
That growth continues as we veer into the second half of the album. Olsen favors slower, somber ballads here, and minimizes her sound down to the folksy roots and influence that has driven her work up to this point. With standout cuts “Sister” and “Woman,” Olsen showcases two 7-minute, ambitious tracks, all the while en route to guitar freak-outs and jamming that would make Neil Young proud.
My Woman is a stunner of a record. I wouldn’t deem it better than Burn Your Fire, but would I say this record fairs better overall as a complete album experience? Most certainly. Everything about My Woman is so masterfully put together — from the songs themselves to the way that they’re sequenced — that it becomes one of the most enjoyable records of 2016 for me. Extenuated through and through by Olsen’s beautiful, warm voice, you truly believe you can relate when she says she knows how something feels, adding yet another layer of quality to love about this record and Angel Olsen’s work as a whole. This album is staggeringly human.
Angel Olsen is her own woman, and this record shows she’s everyone else’s as well.
Final Feelings On The Record: Loved It
— Dan Fiorio, Music Blogger