Angel Olsen – Warsaw – September 18, 2016
Angel Olsen wields the superpower of having one of the most dynamic voices in music. Not only that, but her songwriting puts it all to damn good use. Her latest release, the much-acclaimed My Woman, further pushes her sound into every direction. Sometimes it’s poppier, sometimes more mellow, louder and/or softer. Call it her slow takeover of the entire musical canon. Olsen and Co. came to Brooklyn’s the Warsaw on Sunday night, her second of two local weekend shows. Olsen’s backing band, sporting adorable matching gray suits with bolo ties, featured some welcome new additions. Mount Moriah’s Heather McEntire may be one of the few voices out there with the chops to sing backing vocals for Olsen. Their Southern-inspired outfits seemed fitting for the barn-stomping, rockabilly-tinged set openers, “Never Be Mine” and “Hi-Five.” All three guitarists came out swinging as the slow-burning “Sister” worked toward its fiery crescendo.
At the opposite end of things, “Acrobat,” usually already a sparse song, was stripped bare even of its rhythm, making a brooding number sound all the more haunted. With its lurching momentum, the shape-shifting melody was left to wax and wane as Olsen saw fit, belting through lines like “I am alive” before lingering on “I thought I had died.” It remains one of her best songs, made all the better by her continual experimentation with its arrangement. She makes it all look easy to boot. “Windows” showcased vocals reminiscent of Stevie Nicks’ raspy warmth. The following song, “Not Gonna Kill You,” brought out the fever-pitch psychedelic sharpness that could be mistaken for Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick. The encore kicked off with the bright and moody “Intern.” And for all the range displayed within the main set, the song still felt like a counterpoint, replacing drums and guitars for keyboards and synths. Just when you thought she was done conquering the musical landscape, there was still more stones left unturned. You can call this rock and roll. —Dan Rickershauser | @D4nRicks