Angel Olsen: Big Time (Album Review)

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Angel Olsen’s sixth studio album, Highligths, co-produced by Olsen and Jonathan Wilson, highlights the singer-songwriter’s consummate absorption of the American genre – its essential form and contemporary cross-pollination with rock, pop and jazz. Through The big moment ten-song sequence, Olsen is recast in a way reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s makeover via the Daniel Lanois-directed film time out of mindBeck switches brands like Nigel Godrich change of the seaand Katie Crutchfield’s recent makeover thanks to Brad Cook Saint Cloud.

In the opener, “All the Good Times”, Olsen wistfully addresses the impending loss of a relationship (“Can’t tell you I’m trying / When there’s nothing here left to try”). His vocals are bolstered by a single drum beat and accentuated by a pedal steel part that slices moodily across the sound field. She effortlessly embraces the persona of golden age diva and Grand Ole Opry wannabe, evoking the country’s pantheon, everyone from Loretta Lynn and Roy Orbison to Emmylou Harris and Jamie Johnson. .

In the album’s title cut, loud acoustics and a prominent steel pedal frame Olsen’s honey-soaked vocals. Olsen Pivots From 2016 Ambitious Indie Forward-Thinking Writer My wife and pop cutscenes of 2019 All mirrors into a Nashville-inspired singer, reminiscent of Patsy Cline’s greatest hits and the smoky textures of early kd lang, shadowland. Six-and-a-half-minute “This Is How It Works” similarly features Olsen’s supple vocals backed by dreamy instrumentation, including dynamic interactions between Wilson on electric guitar, Spencer Cullum on steel pedal and Grant Milliken on vibraphone. The last two minutes of the song are a pastoral yet dynamic instrumental segment that wouldn’t be out of place on a stripped down version of “Free Bird” or an “unplugged” Allman Brothers jam.

With “Dream Time”, Olsen offers a ballad with folk accents, a subtly offbeat drum part creating a languorous and narcotic effect that may remind some of the more atmospheric work of Eleni Mandell. “All the Flowers” shows Olsen and Wilson experimenting with reverb, chorus, and echo, with Olsen’s voice high in the mix and shaking. Subdued string sounds compensate for a tinkling piano part. With “Right Now,” Olsen’s vocals, again dabbed with reverb and echo, are accompanied by ringing guitar and a splashing drum part. “But I’m telling you right now / If we’re apart or here together, I need to be myself,” she moans, embracing vulnerability undiluted by impressionistic lyricism, tongue-in-cheek vocal timbres or instrumental deviations.

“Through the Fires” shows Olsen revisiting his affinity for metaphor, acknowledging the wounds that are a huge part of his life while continuing to process grief and regret (“Remembering the ghost / Who exists in the past / But being freed desire”). On the closer “Chasing the Sun,” Olsen’s breathy vocals, complemented by Drew Erickson on piano, recall Billie Eilish’s jazzy deliveries last year. happier than ever. However, as the song progresses, she expresses her vocal range more fully, moving seamlessly from the lowest to the highest notes, her searing maneuvers indicating an often under-recognized pop sensibility. Jacob Braun’s cello adds depth and tone to the piece.

With Highligths, Olsen delivers an immediately accessible and understatedly ornate batch of songs. Although the set’s melodies are not spoken, they are indeed haunting, primarily due to Olsen’s consistently sultry tone and precise phrasing. One imagines that Wilson, who helped facilitate the popular J. Tillman’s transformation into marquee-ready Father John Misty, played a vital role in crafting Great Moments’ big picture, its utilitarian blends and retro aesthetic and less is more. With HighligthsOlsen takes some of popular music’s most enduring patterns, revamps them and, once again, reinvents himself.

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