There's somewhat of an "indie girl syndrome" going around music lately - all of these indie rock bands popping up led by a woman have the same exact voice. Angel Olsen gives us a refresher from that scratchy, tired vocal style. Her third record My Woman is both a solid indie record with originality and a compliment to her career.
Fans of Olsen may go into this record expecting someone along the lines of the crunchy production style of her sophomore effort, Burn Your Fire For No Witness. This album takes into account something that was brewing since the start of her career. Under the thick production of her last two records was a clean side of her grunge and pop rock flair. The grit of her music is mostly gone and replaced with a new sense of writing and artistry.
My Woman is a songwriter's album at its core, the vocals and messages being backed by other instruments not out of necessity, but rather for accentuation. The album is separated into two halves: a pop rock half with more radio-friendly numbers, and a back half with more personal and grabbing tracks. The first track is 'Intern', a sweet track backed by synths that's a lot shorter than you'd wish it'd be. It's followed by the lo-fi and nostalgic 'Never Be Mine'. The guitar progresses from being a light backing number to the driving backbone of the song in an awesome buildup from beginning to end. Another highlight of this half of the record is the Nirvana-esque 'Give It Up' - I can't help but feel like the song should start with "I'm so happy, because today I found my friends" rather than the message of hate sent to past loves.
The second half of the record isn't as upfront as the first half is. It takes a step back from the ballad tracks and instead focusses on songwriting and reflection. It's start is marked by 'Heart Shaped Face' which is almost like a twangy slow dance. This song really starts the point where we see Olsen broaden her vocal variety, of which there is a lot of on this record. Her approach is very folky on this track, while in 'Those Were The Days', for example, her vocals are very jazzy. The album ends with the somber 'Pops' - it's the most stripped down track on the record and is the appropriate amount of reflection to end the record with. It's sad about the loss of a relationship and it's one of the most relatable tracks on the record. It's hard to not feel a familiar sadness listening to this track.
The true gem of the record, though, is 'Sister'. It is one of two tracks (the other being 'Woman') that clocks in at over seven minutes, and it's really a journey. The song goes through what Angel Olsen would tell her sister (if she had one - Olsen was adopted at the age of three) as she grew up. Olsen describes how this image of a sister helped shape her own life and how there was always a light at the end of the tunnel when she wasn't sure there was. The track has the build of a Fleetwood Mac track, folky and bluesy guitar et al, as it builds up to a more driven track with punchy piano and a truly electrifying guitar solo with Olsen belting in the background to bring the song to an epic and emotional climax.
There's little to complain about with Olsen's new record. The only sad part is that the first half of the record seems weak compared to the emotions of the second half. My Woman is a musical accumulation of who Angel Olsen is. This album is her soul and her spirit. The album is almost like a life lesson, or, for Olsen, a reflection on who she's become and how she got here. It's beautiful and provides for a very revealing experience. My Woman isn't just one woman; it's the experiences that everyone goes through, and delivers one message: you are a product of yourself.
Favorite Tracks: Sister, Pops, Never Be Mine
Least Favorite Track: Shut Up Kiss Me
Rating: 85 / 100