What a voice. What a bloody voice.
Look, I’m aware that I’m not breaking new ground here: this is the kind of thing you’re legally obliged to write about when you write about Angel Olsen. There’s going to be voice talk. There’s no use fighting it; it’s just one of those things.
So let’s at least do it properly. Olsen’s voice soothes and swoops, soars and seethes. It knees you in the face then applies ice. It fills the room while speaking just to you. It’s a voice that seems to have gone out and bought its own overdrive, tremolo and chorus pedals. It’s probably planning a solo tour as I type.
This would all be irrelevant if the songs were no good, but Olsen’s craft is more than a match for her chops. New record My Woman is a doozy, building on the light-in-the-dark power of 2014’s Burn Your Fire for No Witness with a more expansive palette, Olsen ruminating on love, life and womanhood. Go and listen to it if you haven’t done so already.
Backed by five sharp-suited co-conspirators, she is in playful, commanding mood at a packed KOKO. Opener ‘Never Be Mine’, a country shuffle smudged with girl-group lipstick, kickstarts a swaggering opening salvo that also takes in ‘Hi-Five’ (“Are you lonely too? High five! So am I!”) and ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’.
Two highlights from the new record, ‘Sister’ and ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’, hit hard, but it’s the encore that really packs an emotional punch. The synth-led ‘Intern’ is ethereal, dreamy and shapeless in the best possible way. Then there is the sprawling ‘Woman’, which positively aches with yearning, loneliness, hope, resilience.
At the centre of it all is Olsen’s widescreen vibrato. As I may already have mentioned, it’s a pretty good instrument.
Never Be Mine
Shut up kiss me
Those were the days
Not gonna kill you
Give it up