Album Review: Angel Olsen – Phases

Angel Olsen is back with a special new release of B-sides, rarities and outtakes titled Phases. The intimate, acoustic attitude is displayed immediately from the first few strumming’s of the opening track Fly On Your Wall. The song becomes more exciting as the slow drumbeat begins to drive the song.

The next track shares a more edgy Angel Olsen style, as an electric guitar chord progression infused with a glaring treble effect propels the song into a chill vibe. Special features multiple electric guitar tracks, which keeps listeners intrigued with different musical ideas in different directions.

Only With You may be Angel Olsen’s best effort in channeling the late Jeff Buckley, a singer/songwriter intimacy master. This song is one of the stand out tracks on the album because of the simple, beautiful power in the mood, melody and lyrics. The following track All Right Now continues the mellow mood, adding an even more hushed, soft vibe with a classical rhythm guitar progression.

The lo-fi, raw theme continues with track five, Sans. The song features a grooving electric guitar riff, as the glaring treble effect returns from earlier in the album. The volume and attitude beefs up on Sweet Dreams, track six. Listeners may feel that the music channels a Nirvana, grunge style. Angel’s vocals on this song highlight her brilliant ability to take hold of a song with her powerhouse voice.

Track seven, California features an acoustic, beachy feel, which intrigues listeners to close their eyes and transcend to their most relaxing, paradise fantasy. The next song, Tougher Than The Rest is another obvious raw, lo-fi demo and it features only Angel’s vocals and her rudimentary, treble electric guitar colors.

For You continues the mellow, rough form of Angel’s intimate, vivid songwriting. Many listeners may consider this album as sleep music but her emotional heavy lyrics mixed with the rich sound of her guitar strumming’s keep listeners wide awake and glued to their earphones.

Track ten, How Many Disasters channels Maureen Tucker from the Velvet Underground and brings to mind their hit song After Hours. The bonfire night, mellow vibes on this album surely make this collection a special, intimate and standout release in Angel’s catalog of eclectic gems. The next song May As Well contains a beautiful vocal melody which reminds me of oldie singers accompanying the big band era. Angel Olsen has proved with this release that her folk rock style covers many ranges and musical genres.

The very last song Endless Road features a different rhythm than any other songs on the album. Acoustic fingerpicking slated for the last track is a great way for her to keep listeners wanting to hear more songs with a similar folky style.

Scott J. Herman