Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

burn After the intensity of the frothing over this album, I have to confess I ended up ignoring it for a good while (it’s been out for ages now) so that I could listen to it without my inner misanthrope refusing to like it just because it caused so many other people to touch themselves in bad places and collapse into fits of twee hipster-ecstasy convulsions.

Anyhow, the sound of panting seems to have died down by now, and I’ve been listening to this a fair bit recently. I remember when I first wrote about Angel Olsen I said that there was something in there which I almost loved, but not quite. Her early work maybe took the knowingly retro vocal delivery just a little too far and some of the more intense yelps were unlistenably grating.

Mostly it was beautiful, but just a smidgen too often it went a bit too far, and I haven’t yet been able to listen to an album without reservations. This one, frustratingly, goes too far in the opposite direction. Again, a lot of it is utterly gorgeous. Her voice really is stunning, and when there is little else to vie for your attention it is one of the most compelling things I’ve heard in ages.

This album is far less stripped back than previous work, and recorded with a full rock band at points, but whilst that has indeed sanded off a few of the rough edges in many ways it goes too far. It seems ludicrously simplistic to say it but honestly the slow songs on this album are generally fantastic, but the rock songs are generally pretty dull.

There are tunes on here like Lights Out and the absolutely gorgeous White Fire which are really, really fucking good, but others like High and Wild which are just stodgy. It’s driving me nuts. Somewhere in all this stuff there is a version of Angel Olsen which I am sure I would love just as much as everyone else, but one album is just a bit too wild and the next ends up being just a bit too sensible.

I’ve said this before about people who embrace full bands when it may not always suit them, and I will say it again: what makes Angel Olsen special is Angel herself. Her voice, her style, her delivery… it just all has so much character, and I think the more densely arranged songs on this end up just smothering that and making something special sound commonplace. It’s a good album, and has some stunningly beautiful moments, but all in all I still think it contains too many forgettable songs, and find it a little disappointing overall. So another Angel Olsen frustration, but again, I feel so close to absolutely loving it that it drives me nuts.

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