It can be hard as a critic to cover smaller, lesser known artists and albums, especially when said critic is a college student who is heavily involved with multiple extracurricular activities. That being said, I often feel bad that I am not properly using my blog to promote music that people might not have previously heard about. Because of this I decided I would look into folk singer Angel Olsen’s latest record due to a couple of personal requests and the overflow of positive feedback it has received.
When diving into My Woman the first thing you need to comment about is Olsen herself and all she brings forward here. As a performer, not only are her vocals excellent, but the energy and personality she emits is a main reason why so many of the songs work here. Whether it’s the higher energy tracks like “Shut Up and Kiss Me” and “Not Gonna Kill You” or the softer ballads that occupy the second half of the record, you feel the exact emotions she wants you to feel.
Olsen is also able to match her vocals with a small variety of instruments that assist her well. Right from the opener “Intern” we hear the sounds of angelic synths as Olsen sings about wanting to break free from the repetition of her day-to-day life. While most of the middle of the record is backed by guitars, the sound never really feels monotonous. The first half of this record has a fun, lo-fi sound to it with songs like “Shut Up and Kiss Me” which is a single that deserves heavy rotation amongst indie music fans, and “Give It Up” that starts off with some Nirvana-inspired chords before turning into something completely new.
Then comes “Heart Shaped Face” which kicks off the acoustic half of this record. These slower songs are an emotionally satisfying display of the folksier side of Olsen that she mastered in her early musical career. This skill for creating deep, heartfelt folk music is clear on the lengthy tracks here. “Sister” is a reflective ballad as Olsen wonders what it would be like to have a younger sister and all the things she wishes she could have experienced with this hypothetical child. Or “Woman” which is carried by quiet synths and Olsen’s emotive delivery about a seemingly failing relationship. The emotions come in strong as she exclaims “I dare you to understand what makes me a woman” and the heavier guitars temporarily take over the track.
Even while it does not hit the same emotional highs of the song that precedes it, the closer “Pops” is a well done piano ballad and continues to show off Angel Olsen’s power as not only a great lo-fi artist but just a talented musician altogether.
Lyrically, while the album does mostly seem to play as a breakup record, it continues to find new ways to convey similar messages. “Never Be Mine” comes across as a more vulnerable depiction of Olsen, as she reaches into her falsetto more frequently. Then we get “Not Gonna Kill You” where Olsen comes across much stronger and more confident after this diminished relationship.
While the tonal shift halfway through the tracklist was initially jarring for me, and has yet to completely grow on me, I can appreciate this record greatly as both halves truly deliver on what they set out to accomplish. There is not a bad song on My Woman just songs that hit stronger than others. Any self-proclaimed fan of indie or lo-fi music should love what Olsen delivers here as it is one of the best records in those genres of the year. While dreams of Angel Olsen crossing over for a mainstream audience are far from realistic, I still have hopes that her fan base will increasingly grow so that she might get the attention I feel she truly deserves.
Best Tracks: Intern, Never Be Mine, Shut Up and Kiss Me, Give It Up, Not Gonna Kill You, Sister, Woman
Worst Track: Those Were the Days