“I am the only one now,” sings Angel Olsen to conclude Unfuck the world (the lead track on her second LP) and the quiet, tape recorded tune is an apt prologue for the record’s thematic exploration of – and struggle against – solitude.
“I” is easily the most used word on Burn Your Fire For No Witness, but the perspective isn’t closed off. Rather, Olsen draws from subjective hurt to depict feelings that encroach upon all of us. There’s no reliable safeguard against loneliness; whenever we sink back into our thoughts or lucidly grasp our being, it’s a stubbornly isolated experience. But this certainly isn’t enough reason to stop searching for redemptive unity.
BYFFNW has its fair share of woebegone moments – the most striking, a breathy Leonard Cohen interpolation called White Fire – but it also shows off a perkier side of Olsen’s personality. Backed by a drummer and bass player, herself wielding an electric guitar, Forgiven/ Forgotten is instantly nostalgic and positively catchy. The extra gusto makes Olsen’s often-wistful voice sound almost imperturbable when she sings “I don’t know anything – but I love you”. Similarly, the bar-band tint to Hi Five provides the perfect platform for the year’s most unlikely spiritual exclamation: “Are you lonely too? High Five! So am I!”
The claws come out in Hi and Wild, until the ruptured relationship prompts the indignant plea “If only I had nothing more to say.” Yet, Olsen’s songs transmit such tactile emotional force that we should hope she continues to vocally dissect her feelings.
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY
Best Track: Forgiven/ Forgotten
If You Like These You’ll Like This: Tramp SHARON VAN ETTEN, The Boatman’s Call NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS, I Speak Because I Can LAURA MARLING
In A Word: Lonelyhunter