Angel Olsen gathered and delivered her most recent release in late August through JagJaguwar, MY WOMAN. The mood, tone and ambiance of the record leaves such a conflicted presence, as if the whole record was an internal argument. However, lyrically, the solutions and answers couldn’t be more simple. Whether it’s a direct command: “Shut up, Kiss me, Hold me tight” (Shut Up, Kiss Me), or drawing comparisons to the monotony of love and passionless work: “Picking up the phone, swear it’s the last time / Falling in love, swear it’s the last time.” (Intern) There is a heavy “unrequited love” theme throughout – which seems to leave no track unscathed by its ache.
Upon first approach, the body of work musically sounds rather bare bones, then seamlessly and ever so gradually fills out to a vibrant tapestry of warmth and reverberation that spills from track to track. Opening with ‘Intern’ and ‘Never Be Mine’, it maintains a somber tone; then ‘Shut Up, Kiss Me’ picks up with a renewed energy, for which my ears essentially demanded. It keeps an upbeat tone musically through ‘Give It Up’ – carrying you into the other/another lover perspective piece ‘Not Gonna Kill You’. “Oh, let the light shine in,” she repeats. – side note: I honestly vowed that a “light/dark” analogy would not leave my lips again – however I was totally tempted join in with the subtle build at the first crux of the song.
The record slows back down in ‘Heart Shaped Face’, adding: “Heartache ends… And begins again” in thrice repetition. At the end of this mantra we roll into the (nearly 8 minute) tale ‘Sister’. Following that journey – ‘Those Were The Days’ begins soothing and lush, visiting a thoughtful approach to this similar theme. The title track ‘Woman’ I leave for your own digestion – just call me when you hear her say “What makes me a woman” the last time, and we can spend a few minutes of shared goosebumps. The record ends with a plea: ‘Pops’ is the last brokenhearted note. The piano and lightly overdriven vocals invoke a sense of nostalgia – heart break in another time – like a request of the past. The singer seems to know the answer, but asks the listener anyway.
For those that are hurting, lonely, or just revisiting the ‘what ifs’ of another time and place; this record pulls up a barstool, says “me too”, and sips a bottle of pity with you. Please don’t construe this review as a dismissal or an over-simplification of the work. This is not a “sad, lonely, victim” record. Olsen takes a strong, passionate look at the past and current predicament, gleaning what she could from it, and takes action. This seems to be a person who knows what they want, recognizing the power in that certainty and the hurts of love and relationships. They then strip them down bit by bit, and inspects it from all sides and angles.