Sunday, 16 February 2014

Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness Review

Missouri singer/songwriter and I Plug To You favourite Angel Olsen's assent to prominence wasn't instant; much like her songwriting, her fanbase has grown and developed over time. I was fortunate enough to discover Angel way back in 2011 shortly after she released her debut mini-album Strange Cacti and I've been hooked ever since. Strange Cacti was a curious record, despite the heavy reverb her skill and immense talent were crystal clear. Although, the true extent of Angel's semi-operatic lull wasn't apparent until the release of her debut album proper, the stripped back Half Way Home the following year. With such high expectations, I can wholeheartedly say that she hasn't disappointed in the slightest.
The album opens with 'Unfucktheworld' a timid two-minute track which, much like her previous material, references the sensation of loneliness (the repetition of the lyric "I am the only one now" being most prominent). 'Unfucktheworld' acts as the calm before the storm that is the mighty single 'Forgiven/Forgotten' which sent the music community into a frenzy when it dropped late last year. Here we see a new, more assertive Angel as she chants "I made up my mind, I made up my mind/I wasted my time, making up my mind". The alt-country stomper 'Hi-five', like it's predecessor is backed by a full band  which help maximize the impact of the comic line "Hi-Hive! So am I!". 'White fire' on the other hand is a sobering 7-minute journey of a track which lures you in further with it's dark intensity and sinister undertones as she warbles "I heard my mother thinking me right back into my birth, I laughed so loud inside myself it all began to hurt".
Just when you wonder if Angel's more upbeat sound was just a phase, you are hit with the anomalous 'High & Wild' which like the name suggests is erratic and totally random, in the best possible way.  Angel broadens her horizons further with the introduction of piano to her ever-expanding repertoire. The piano rattles alongside the drums and gritty guitars as she sings "I'm neither innocent nor wise when you look me in the eyes". The next stand-out comes in the form of 'Stars'; the hearty guitars and pounding guitars recall the instrumentation found on Anna Calvi's atmospheric debut alongside Angel's gorgeous coo which soars as she cries "I'll close my eyes, I'll close my eyes so tightly for the world".
'Dance Slow Decades' is an elegant  ballad which builds into a majestic climax to become one of Angel's most optimistic tracks yet. Like on 'Hi-five' , here we can see Angel's maturity and development as a person as well as an artist as finds a more positive outlook on life . On 'Enemy', Angel is opening up to her lover over a skeletal guitar line which showcase her voice wonderfully to great an intimate and warm listen. The closer 'Windows' has an underlying resilience which juxtaposes the fragility of her voice as she asks "What's so wrong with the light?". It's as if (as cheesy as it sounds) through opening the window, after all the sorrow, she is finally able to find a glimmer of hope in all the gloom.
From the the glorious highs ('Hi-Five') to the devastating lows ('White Fire'); Burn Your Fire...'s genius is in it's ability to strike the perfect balance between the two. Whilst her debut was crippling at times ('Safe In The Womb' in particular); Burn Your Fire... turns despair into triumph as it sticks up her middle finger to loneliness and sorrow before leaving them behind on the wonderfully uplifting 'Windows'. 
Key Tracks: Unfucktheworld, Forgiven/Forgotten, Hi-Five, Stars, Dance Slow Decades, Windows

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