“Do you have dreams?” Angel Olsen asks the audience, moment before making a small fantasy come true as she embarks upon a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s timeless pop-rock wonder ‘Dreams’ then waltzes into her own ‘Sweet Dreams’.
Over the course of her brief career so far, Olsen has already established herself as a premium cover artist in both senses of that word. Whether performing her own scintillating slew of tracks to date or trying her hand at those written by others, a cosmic allure comes shining through as she croons her way towards atmospheric perfection.
Thus, ‘Dreams’ proves a fitting sonic odyssey for the star from St Louis to embark upon. Not only does the track serve up enough atmosphere to sustain life on Mars but it also serves up the same swirling depth of obfuscated emotion that renders Olsen’s output bottomless. If Olsen’s music throws off GPS systems in a maze of mercurial musical mood swings, then ‘Dreams’ almost wrote the book on it.
The track itself happens o be the perfect tableau for Fleetwood Mac’s existence. Picture the scene: Stevie Nicks has just written a masterpiece on Sly Stone’s bed while remorsefully weeping about her breakup with Lindsey Buckingham. The song, ‘Dreams’, is a masterpiece and destined to become one of the biggest pop-rock songs of all time. The issue is that it is only half-finished. The next day she must take it to Buckingham, the man who it was written about, and entrust the song to him for the benefit of his elevating expertise.
Thereafter, she must also enter a silent, darkened, studio room and crowd around a microphone to record the three-part vocal harmony with Christine McVie (also going through a caustic breakup with John McVie who was watching on) and the dastardly Buckingham himself. They are all huddled inches apart around the same mic, there is more tension in the room than if each party had needed a fart in an elevator. On the count of four, they must pour their heartaches out, no doubt in that very moment adding to it. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine a performance under any more emotional duress.
And yet, it is that very vulnerability combined with the cathartic so-screw-it liberation of great rock music that lends ‘Dreams’ its vibrant and emotive immediacy. ‘Dreams’ is perhaps too catchy and too sing-along to be considered the peak of heart-breaking music; in fact, it is even played at weddings by less lyrically scrupulous DJs. However, the story behind it is one that doesn’t get much more tragic this side of Orpheus.
The result encapsulates everything that was happening — all the wrung-out heartache, the comic silver-lining of tragedy – and in its own mad way, it is a total expression of love. As far as capturing things faithfully goes, that is an almost impossible thing to transpose from afar, thus, Olsen’s more distant cosmic approach proves a thrilling way to capture the track in her own ethereal way.