Who: First spotted as a backing vocalist for Bonnie Prince Billy, Missouri singer-songwriter Angel Olsen has developed into an enigmatic solo starlet, full of crooning honesty and dark majesty. Signed to renowned US indie label Jagjaguwar, her second album Burn Your Fire For No Witness (2014) was woefully under-appreciated upon its release but rave reviews at SXSW and a magnetic performance on the Late Show with David Letterman has seen her reputation rightfully grow. She continues to blossom into a captivating performer, exuding an elegant steel as she gains more confidence as an artist.
Sounds like: From underneath scratchy, lo-fi, indie production a spine trembling voice soars and a great diva-in-waiting smolders through. A David Lynch character that bewitches with an arch grin and warbles like a great long lost Parisian nightclub singer, Olsen plays the femme fatale with an understated cool and knowing look in her eye. A maudlin sweetheart to Hank Williams’ lonely Luke The Drifter persona, her stand-out track Hi-Five turns the isolation into a playful photo-strip drama, part guitar pop heartbreaker, part delicious, twanging, country lullaby. She gets more cryptic and potent on High and Wild, turning her angst to a dufus old flame and wrapping in him around her finger – “I’m neither innocent or wise/ When you look me in the eyes/You might as well be blind/You don’t see me anymore”.
The Buzz: “The seductive harshness of Karen Dalton, the infectious languor of Mazzy Star, the clipped, sardonic intensity of the first two Cate Le Bon albums… if you’ve a partiality for any one of these addictive pleasures, this album will have plenty to offer you. For those who are suckers for all three, your Christmas and birthday have come at once.” Ben Thompson, Mojo Magazine.
Why she matters: Because like St Vincent, PJ Harvey and Cat Power, hers is sexy, powerful, spell-binding talent that takes no backward step. No quivering waif, kookball dreamer nor retro soulstress, our Angel floats above the sea of sub-Marling folk strummers with an otherworldly stare that cuts to the core. She’s still finding her feet as a songwriter, vocalist and performer, but take note because there is a great album in her.
For Fans of: Cat Power, Courtney Barnett, Bonnie Prince Billy, Martha Wainwright, Anna Calvi, Jenny Lewis, Mazzy Star, Cate Le Bon, St Vincent, Bill Callahan, Sharon Van Etten, Caitlin Rose.
Check out: Her Letterman performance of Hi-Five was the show-stealer, but other highlights of album Burn Your Fire For No Witness include High and Wild’s defiant stare down, the hushed beauty of doom ballad Iota and the blasting, garage rock cry of Forgiven/Forgotten. Also worth a quick glance is Mac DeMarco’s cover of Lights Out and her work with Bonnie Prince Billy and the Cairo Gang.