Angel Olsen | ARTIST
Burn Your Fire For No Witness | ALBUM
Jagjaguwar | LABEL
18 February 2014 | RELEASE DATE
8.5 | 10
“I wanted nothing but for this to be the end,” sings Angel Olsen on the opening track of her newly released LP Burn Your Fire For No Witness. For 11 tracks, Olsen fights, resigns, soars and cries, working her way through her battles to the very end. “I lost my dream, I lost my reason all again,” she later sings on the opening track, her identity crisis spurred on by a new love.
As an opener, “Unfucktheworld” is subdued and somber, yet clearly hints at the emotional journey No Witness takes you on. “You may not be around. I am the only one now,” she realizes later, while offering up the lyrics with a heartbreaking conviction. “White Fire” is an equally mellow song, and one of the best things Olsen has ever recorded. “Everything is tragic,” she begins, as guitars roll in behind her. Behind the ominous chords, Olsen’s vocals are delivered both with a feather-like delicacy and a fiery passion.
When there’s an uptick in tempo, No Witness loses none of its emotional pull. In fact, songs such as “Hi-Five” and “High & Wild” are tightly constructed while also capable of moving freely, complete with ear worm melodies and honest lyrical content. “I’ve wasted my time / Making up my mind,” she sings during the raucous “Forgiven/Forgotten.” She makes up for the lost time tenfold, with these compositions highlighting Olsen’s thrilling energy and strong sense of structure.
For such a decidedly lo-fi production, there’s an unavoidable light that peaks through the proceedings. That’s a credit to Olsen’s clear vision, which can be seen in the midst of the album’s sonic qualities. On the closing “Windows,” she asks “what’s so wrong with the light?” It becomes the song’s mantra, and welcomes the album’s most powerful use of percussion, with the drums pounding harder and quicker till it reaches its climax.
The album’s title comes from a lyric in “White Fire.” It represents a gesture in freedom, akin to Jimi Hendrix commanding us all to let our freak flags fly. One could be persuaded to heed her advice by her alluring delivery. But Olsen goes one step further and practices what she preaches on Burn Your Fire For No Witness. She’s in the thick of it, just like the rest of us.