Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Angel Olsen Music Review

Oh Angel Olsen, you start your album with a song called "Unfucktheworld"? I'm already completely won over. Luckily for us, awesome song titles are only the icing on the cake for this third full-length album by the Missouri singer-songwriter. The confessional nature of Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Jagjaguwar, February 2014) provides a treasure trove of lyrical goodness that hit straight to the heart, but never overwhelms thanks to clever (and often humorous) lyrics and catchy songwriting. Sonically, the production by John Congleton, who has already had an excellent year producing records by St. Vincent and Swans, errs toward the scrappy fuzz of '90s indie rock but structurally at times also recalls early Feist. Together Congleton and Olsen craft her strongest and most direct set of songs of her career thus far.
What pushes Burn Your Fire For No Witness beyond singer-songwriter breakup album is phenomenal songwriting that leaves immediate mental footprints to anyone who savours close and repeated listening. On the track "Hi-Five", Olsen inquires, Are you lonely too?, Hi-five! So. Am. I, a simple yet profoundly effective lyric backed up by a jumpy and peppy chorus. That lyrical-musical contrast serves only to emphasize the self-depreciative nature of the song and the crushing but seemingly ludicrous way loneliness can make a person feel. It's in this openness and rawness that makes Olsen's disposition so easy to empathize with. Most of the record is entirely poppy, as album standout "White Fire" recalls Leonard Cohen's brooding "Avalanche" in its music and lyrical composition. It's one of the album's quieter moments but also serves as its emotional centerpiece.
It's worth noting that Olsen has worked and performed with Bonnie Prince Billy, one of the best songwriters of the past 20 years. Like Billy, Olsen is not afraid to wade into the darkness of her own psyche and fully give herself to her music, and ultimately to us the listener.
Best For: Moments of wine-induced self-reflection or wine-induced pity parties. For maximal effect, break up with your significant other and put this album on. ~life advice~
Rating: 4.5/5

-- Ken C. hosts Out of Tune every Wednesday at 4 PM EST on CJLO.