Many are saying Angel Olsen has moved away from her folk roots with latest record, MY WOMAN, embracing grunge, rock and new sounds. It’s being spoken of as a needed change, to move Olsen out of the ‘sad folk singer genre’. MY WOMAN does this, however Olsen still offers something for people who want more of the low-fi and raw folk while embracing a slow change and evolution in her sound

“I think it just happened naturally,” Olsen speaks about this move toward a new sound that embraces more vocals, more band sounds. At times I hear similarities to Courtney Barnett, those upbeat and distorted guitars of ’Shut Up Kiss Me’, but at others, like in ‘Give it Up’, it’s almost Nirvana-like.

“I still feel like, especially when I write solo songs, I’m still trying to be aware of that side of myself. I went and did a solo tour, played a lot of folk festivals, performing the old material and those solo songs, I didn’t perform with a band, just me and a guitar. It kept me on my toes because I forgot you have to interact with the audience more and keep them going, you have to really talk a lot and be more charismatic, and you’re trying to share these intimate songs one after another.”

I get the feeling that, while she loves this side of her music, she doesn’t want to get pigeon-holed in one sound and one place. “I guess I feel like I’m still myself even if I’m merging into a different sound. For me, I’m interested in playing piano and different sounds, and playing ‘Sister’ with a band it still feels like a folk song because it’s so lyric heavy – most of my material has always been very lyric heavy, they’ve always been central to my songs, even if its grunge or pop.”

MY WOMAN sees Olsen able to open up her palette, she channels those 60’s folk and pop artists, as she often has, but it sees her move through Crazy Horse, Nirvana and into some guitar driven alternative. “I still love listening to a simple recording, double voice, some echo and a guitar, I love the sound of demos. I love listening to raw material and always will like that. No matter how the song has changed for the record, for me listening to some of the demos for this record, it’s a different type of animal, I like them for a different reason, because they are its rawest form before everything changed and became this thing for the world. It was just me in this moment where I recorded this song. I think I always will enjoy both sides.”


While this new album can easily be seen as a shift, there are still songs that harness the early Angel Olsen sound, ‘Those Were The Days’, and the stark piano ballad of closing song ‘Pops’. In stark contrast to the full band album, this song shows Olsen on that piano she wanted to be on, all about the lyrics. ‘Pops’ closes what is a slower B-side to the album.

Crafting this almost rock’n’roll album, from the psychedelic and ripper ‘Not Gonna Kill You’ to the huge opuses of songs like ‘Sister’ and ‘Woman’, it saw Olsen open up her voice and allow it to be used in ways she hadn’t in the past. “I also, I think because these songs are so different, I could use my voice and sing in ways I haven’t. For whatever reason, I’d written in a way that prevented me from singing out. So for this record, I could use my voice in ways that were always there but I wasn’t allowed to, or there were too many words or there wasn’t enough space to sing. On this record, some of the longer songs, I got to sing more on. I like the idea of wordless singing, I like making the music I make. I’m happy with it and proud of my band. But I don’t always like the word driven music. I like sometimes when things aren’t so complicated, and when there isn’t so much that you have to think about. I guess some of that worked into the record, I wanted to play and sing more.”
Olsen also took the opportunity
with this new album to be a part of the whole process, to really take control of her image, her sound and her art.  “It’s my first time coproducing and commixing and really seeing it through and making sure I was part of every process.” She also took this inclusion and interest in her videos, as she directed, curated and worked on those in a way she hadn’t before. “I think there were certain things that I felt like it was my job to be in control of. I’ve been interested in film, and in doing those things, but it was a humbling step to make, it’s a lot of work. And I didn’t have a tonne of time to edit, and I had a deadline, and I didn’t pay myself. The way it usually works is you pick someone who you like and think is brilliant and you have a part in it, but you don’t really have a big say. It’s their art, your Image is reliant on their art, and their interpretation. Which to me is a strange way to go about promoting your music. I wanted more control over that part, I don’t expect to have control over it once it’s been released.”

Ironically, she hasn’t, especially with regard to the title. She’s found herself being asked questions about feminism, about politics, and in many ways this wasn’t the intention. “No, not at all. It was almost like, ‘Oh, one of the songs is called Woman, I will just say it’s MY woman.’ And with the cover being the image it is, it’ll have attitude if we call it that. I’m surprised. I didn’t realize that of course there’s a woman trying to be president, and a lot going on in this subject right now. To me, it was an attitude, I’m going to own my own image. I’ll be more in control of my own decisions. To me, the songs are about many different things.” Olsen feels the album can be read in multiple ways, but that many songs stand alone when heard but can fit into an overarching concept if you want to put them there.  

“There’s always a statement you’re making that you didn’t realize you were making,” Olsen laughs, she doesn’t mind getting asked the questions, even if sometimes they are a few tangents away from the original topic, her brilliant new album.

Angel Olsen is playing at the Kings Arms on Wednesday 14th December and in Wellington on Monday 12th and Tuesday 13th (sold out). We can’t wait to rock out in the perfect venue for her. Check out tickets here.  

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