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Albums of 2014 #6: Angel Olsen: Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Compared with its sparse, spectral predecessor Half Way Home, Angel Olsen’s sophomore album Burn Your Fire For No Witness was a testy she-wolf of a record, Olsen baring her fangs between strained smiles on grunge-coated rocker “Forgiven/ Forgotten” and imagining herself as some kind of elemental goddess “singing the stars back into the universe”.  Her new band – Stewart Bronaugh on bass and drummer Josh Jaeger – and producer John Congleton proved the perfect creative foils, adding depth and texture without drawing attention away from the real star of the show, and what a star Olsen proved to be: on “Hi Five” she’s the cool girl at the barn dance, shimmying to countrified glam pop with a beer in her hand, oblivious to the drooling cowboys sniffing at her heels whilst “High & Wild” finds her later that same evening, emboldened by booze, taking the stage and winning over the ladies too with an impassioned turn that bounces from Emmylou to Sandy Denny to Polly Jean and back again. In this kind of company, the small handful of songs that revisit Long Way Home‘s hushed, intimate sound – “Enemy”, “Dance Slow Decades”, Cohen-esque dirge “White Fire” – are almost startling in their skeletal simplicity, Olsen apparently exerting less effort than it takes to speak in order to create music of almost overwhelming intensity, and it’s this balance of rockers and ballads that makes Burn Your Fire so powerful, and Olsen such a rarity: an album that will break your heart and warm your soul, and an artist that makes both seem as easy as breathing.


About foamhands

My name is Michael Dix; I'm a decade or so past being down with the kids, but to me new music never gets old. Apparently I like music that sounds like faulty kitchen appliances and ritual slaughter; really I just like what I like, whether that happens to be indie, pop, punk, hip hop, metal, electronica, Afrobeat or jazz. Follow me on Twitter @FoamHandsBlog to receive notifications of new posts and the occasional random brain-fart, and please share links wherever you can. Enjoy!

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