Angel Olsen delves further into her abundant catalog to concoct a splendid album, Phases, a work both introspective and fascinating. An album Pitchfork magazine calls a “collection terrific and revelatory in its own right. It's a trail of dropped clues to the creative process of the defiantly mercurial Olsen.”
The album itself a compilation piece of diverse works over her years; from her start-up in St. Louis, to international acclaim, Phases documents the shift of the artist over the years, a treasure chest to the trained eye, the unavoidable DLC to one of the most impeccably talented songwriters of the contemporary age.Imagine a universe where Patsy Cline dropped the swing pop garbage and fell in with the Black Lips, and in this fellowship, Ian Anderson became her angst incarnate. Imagine that shit.
The second album released by the dynamic songwriter, a pivotal switch to a church revival feel, a brief but pre-meditative retreat from previous works like Burn Your Fire For No Witness, and 2016’s My Woman.
An acoustic guitar swings in an introduction and a basic rhythm emerges at the same time as the unique voice of Angel Olsen. With a resounding accuracy and an unstoppable melody, Fly on Your Wall opens the door to a sanctuary world where emanation meets doubt. After the huge success of My Woman released in 2016, the 30-year-old Missouri songwriter offers, with Phases, a retrospective album that is heard as an exciting succession of drafts, demos, forgotten titles with raw atmospheres and with discrete or even minimal production effects.
Olsen draws from within this strained narrative that has solidified her own sound, emphasizing lyrics in a way similar to folk queens of previous times like Steve Nicks and Sharon Van Etten. The coffee shop singer from St. Louis has made steady progress in the alt-rock world since her inception with Bathetic Records.
She seems, especially in her newest album, to harness the obscure and anxiety-riddled daydream she seems to suspend in the listener, drawing one in with the progressive folk intro of ‘Fly On Your Wall’ directly into the same twisted narrative we have come to love and enjoy, only to follow with a dive into the dreamy depths of ‘Only For You’ as the third track.
Her music, a testament to both her social commentary and rudimentary outlook on modern love, a story illustrated in tones almost as lonesome and fragile in gripping emotions as her voice carries through each set. Olsen has melancholy in her veins, a vital part to her songwriting, though Phases stands apart from her previous works with a diverse utilization of stringent tones, as she has simply phased out of the singularity in each album that made her stand apart from the rest in the first place.
This dive into the intimate does not impress by its cohesion so much, from one title to another, the environment sometimes changes radically. Only Olsen's composing talent floods each of these precious tracks that have not found their place on her three previous LPs, probably because of their singularity. They give the impression of being played on the moment and possess the unique aura of the first tests.
Over the twelve titles of this confusing but excellent Phases, the artist plunges into his past and ponders the different styles that accompanied his young career. She is brilliantly rock on Sweet Dreams (written in 2012) or beautifully folk on the delicate guitar-voice All Right Now, May as Well or the bluffing Endless Road where the shadow of John Baez does not remain far.
But, as on My Woman, the record reaches a prodigious peak when the American stretches as much as possible her lyrical flights as on the staggering Special, more than seven minutes long. Unsettling by its simplicity and harshness, Phases shows in a dizzying way the different facets of Angel Olsen and its melodic depth. The impatience is then great to discover these b-sides on stage in a next tour, planned next year, including some shows in the United States.