The last few AOMs have been fairly mainstream by Rough Trade’s standards. This one remains in a similar vein.
Angel Olsen has been picking up rave reviews with this album. Both the Guardian and Pitchfork gave it a good write up. I can see why it is appealing and I have to confess that I quite enjoy listening to it – but just there, I did it. Damned it with faint praise.
Olsen has a simple musical style. It is stripped back guitar, bass and drums with some keyboard embellishments. The drumming is from the Mo Tucker/Jesus and Mary Chain school of maintaining the beat. The songs on this, her third album, have a direct structure which has been appropriated over the years by many from the 3rd Velvet Underground LP. There are some Spector production tricks. It sits well alongside the likes of Mazzy Star and the criminally ignored Crybaby LP from a couple of years ago.
There is a touch of Hope Sandoval, Grace Slick and Patti Smith in her vocals. Her lyrics are direct and all in all, it is a compelling package. I really could see her appeal to someone who is their late teens and twenties. I just feel like I’ve experienced it before.
The opener “Intern” is a little atypical of the LP, sounding like an outtake from the “Twin Peaks” soundtrack with Olsen going falsetto at the end, which works incredibly well as does the distortion she applied to her voice on “Shut Up And Kiss Me.”
I think maybe the problem is with the lyrics on reflection. It isn’t that they are bad, far from it. They just don’t talk to me as a 49 year old bloke and it would be laughably unreasonable to think they should. There’s fair amount of high drama relationship on offer here, which I couldn’t being doing with in my teens and twenties and less so even now.
Hurts to be around you, I can’t stand to hear your lying
Whenever you’re beside me, a part of me is dying
And every time I see you I tell myself I’ll never
Have this feeling with another, oh you’re in my heart forever
(“Give It Up”)
The owner intense pain I have in my life is the one that I get when I stretch my calves in bed and get an attack of cramps. That’s quite enough for me, thank you very much.
Side two (in old money) has the two centrepieces, each running at over 7 minutes.
“Sister” starts off with a very “Pale Blue Eyes” verse featuring that very Orbison/Velvets/Jesus and Mary Chain boom boom-boom drum beat in the chorus before stretching out over a refrain of “All my life I thought I’d change”. It is great to hear the band properly cut loose like a close knit Crazy Horse.
The following track “Those Were The Days” is gorgeous though, dreamily dragging through a hot summers day and again benefits from Olsen changing her style to a more breathy vocal.
The final epic is “Woman”. This is her best set of lyrics, a more mature reflection on being a woman and again builds into a “Cowgirl In The Sand” like coda. Olsen has suggested that the album is structured into an A and B side approach. For me the second side which is the “night” side is much stronger. It is much more varied.
In reading up on the LP, I’ve discovered it was recorded at Vox Studios in Los Angeles, the same place as the Unloved LP which I had blogged about it here. It is blindingly obvious in retrospect as the reverb packed classic sixties sound is evident throughout.
Each time I listen to the LP, I like it a little more. This can only be a good thing. My younger self may have loved it but for now, a grower is no bad thing.
The bonus material is a series of demos which reveal Olsen’s more folky background. It is still available from Rough Trade here.