Backed with a full band, Angel Olsen’s Burn Your Fire For No Witness packs a wallop. It opens sparsely with the lonely lo-fi of “Unfucktheworld,” but that’s just Ms. Olsen popping the cork on her diverse and buzzworthy second LP. The Missouri-born songstress sheds the delicate alt. folk stylings of her past two recordings, the Strange Cacti EP (2011) and Halfway Home (2012), by ensconcing herself in fuzzy blues and lonely, atmospheric dirges.
One cannot help but get hit over the head with the first two releases from this album: the fuzzy “Forgiven/Forgotten” and the delicious Roy Orbison meets Dan Auerbach vibe on “High Five.” On Burn You Fire For No Witness, Olsen brazenly announces her arrival and then proceeds to enrapture us with her heart-breaking meanderings.
As different as this LP is, it is not as though Ms. Angel abandons past incarnations. The backing band makes her gloomy, insightful lyricism that much more poignant. We hear remnants of past stylings within the chilly desert sounds of “White Fire,” in which Olsen conjures the seriousness of Joan Baez with the ethereal qualities Hope Sandoval. By the sixth track, “Light’s Out,” she finds herself in more familiar territory; from this point, the fuzz dissipates and introspection dominates on all tracks but the jangly, “Stars.”
This album underscores the importance of song arrangement. Olsen has a track record of being a fine songwriter and interpreter of music. On Burn Your Fire…, she exploits these talents through a colorful sonic palette, and delivers the year’s first significant album.
Burn Your Fire For No Witness is out 18 February on CD and vinyl, and if you order the CD or LP today it ships with a limited edition “Endless Road/May As Well” 7″ vinyl, plus you receive an immediate digital download.
Lyrics – 20
Composition – 18
Musicianship – 18
Production – 18
Originality – 9
Intangibles – 10
Angel Olsen stopped through the DC offices of NPR’s All Songs Considered to record a Tiny Desk Concert. She immerses herself within each song while enchanting the audience. She’s feeling it, and we know it.
Angel Olsen’s Tiny Desk Concert at NPR:
Download the audio broadcast here.