Following the acclaimed Burn Your Fire for No Witness and its expanded sound by two-and-a-half years, idiosyncratic singer/songwriter Angel Olsen broadens her palette even more on LP four, My Woman. Now with a long enough discography to note trends, she's made a steady transformation from tormented acoustic crooner to veritable indie rock songstress, if one still capable of the most intimate of deliveries. My Woman has the full range on display, including some electronics and extroversion not heard from her previously, as dictated by a loose story arc that follows the stages of a doomed relationship, all told from a woman's point of view. The album was recorded live to tape with a five-piece backing band at Vox Studios in Los Angeles.
In the ambivalent opener, "Intern," our heroine reluctantly decides to have one last go at love, foreshadowing with "Doesn't matter who you are or what you do/Something in the world will make a fool of you." The song's atmospheric electronics, a first for Olsen, brace listeners for that expanded palette from the opening seconds. A couple of tracks later is the infectious "Shut Up Kiss Me." Also unlike any of her prior material, it's an aggressive retro rocker that captures unbridled passion and lust ("I ain't giving up tonight"). Co-dependency sets in on "Give It Up," and insecurity follows on "Not Gonna Kill You," both full-band, electric-guitar tunes. Arrangements get sparer as the subject matter gets more philosophical and despondent, such as on the artful "Sister," a dusty, nearly eight-minute epic that bargains with the future. Soon, "Those Were the Days" wonders "Will you ever know the same love that I know?" The breathy torch song is devoid of the singer's trademark heart-aching yodel, forgoing past country styling for low-key jazz-rock. In stark contrast to some of the other songs on the record, the closer, "Pops," is a solo piano dirge that bookends the album with its somber opener ("I'll be the thing that lives in the dream when it's gone").
While some tracks will surprise established fans, to say that My Woman is a departure or style swap for Olsen doesn't really take into account the album as a whole. The elements that are new here play out like a means to an end for a songwriter with a tale to tell, one chock-full of raw emotions. The songs stand just fine on their own, too, out of context. So, load up the playlists, but consider giving the album a proper front-to-back play through at least once for old time's sake. ~ Marcy Donelson
Magnet - "[O]ne of those perfectly timed I-have-arrived moments. The LP spins through several genres, from '80s balladry to David Lynch-ian retro pop to indie-rock epics, but it never feels disjointed or overstuffed."
Mojo (Publisher) - Ranked #28 in Mojo's 'The 50 Best Albums Of 2016' -- "[She] expands her palette from wholefood indie-folk into more sensual and jeopardy-strewn zones..."
NME (Magazine) - "MY WOMAN takes things to another level....While still often broken hearted, it's filled with attitude."
Paste (magazine) - "MY WOMAN finds her up to the challenge, maintaining a harrowing intensity in full-band rockers and solitary confessionals."
Clash (magazine) - "It is, clearly, her finest work to date; it is also, and equally clearly, one of the year's defining records, a work of total creativity by someone utterly in love with her craft."
Uncut (magazine) - "Her voice beams a raw, natural power that seems to pre-date electricity, flickering like an oil lamp....'Sister' is the record's centrepiece, an almost eight-minute declaration of Olsen's belief in love's transformative potential."