Angel Olsen: “Acrobat”
It can be hard to release a quiet album into today’s noisy musical climate, but perhaps that’s exactly what makes such albums so arresting. Angel Olsen‘s Half Way Home is a perfect example of this: guitar and vocals are the only things needed to grab your attention.
Olsen didn’t just happen upon her sound. The Missouri-born, Chicago-based musician has spent the past few years as a member of the Cairo Gang, a folk outfit that records under its own name but also provides backing for Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Billy–a.k.a. Will Oldham–is a notoriously demanding live performer, requiring his fellow bandmates to be able to improvise on a dime. Olsen seems to have soaked up this aspect: her brand of folk rewards close listening as it shifts from mood to mood.
The songs on Half Way Home occasionally sport drums and electric guitar, but it’s primarily a tour-de-force for Olsen’s voice and songwriting. Her songs are hardly linear, yet they’re memorable (and hummable) nonetheless. At times, she warbles at a near-whisper before dramatically shifting gears into an almost operatic bellow, like on “Acrobat.” The ballad is perfectly titled, showing off Olsen’s voice as it twists and turns through the air. This might be music best listened to during solitary hours, but it’s deceptively big.