Indie folk-rock singer-songwriter Angel Olsen released her second full-length album last week to much acclaim.
Her newest compilation, "Burn Your Fire for No Witness," is a solemn, haunting roadmap of heartbreak that weaves sarcasm through a series of simple, retro-style melodies.
Throughout the album, Olsen's voice is rarely heard in its purest form. On almost every track, it sounds as if her voice was recorded in a well or through the hazy speaker of a transistor radio. A choice made by producer John Congleton, this old-fashioned sound adds to the restless poignancy of Olsen's melodies.
In "Burn Your Fire for No Witness," the twangy indie-pop of Olsen's previous album is missing entirely, replaced instead by stark, captivating moaning that resonates throughout the entire record.
That being said, Olsen's music is not the type you dance along with in the car. It is a deep, existential and searching response to emotional pain that seems to have been written more for the artist than the listener.
At times, the album's restless heaviness becomes monotonous, but a few gems do shine through Olsen's often-bleak catatonia.
The second track "Forgiven/Forgotten" is one of the only semi-upbeat tunes of the collection, channeling artists such as Icona Pop and Blondie with its doubled voice, grungy undertones and "independent woman" subject matter.
Similarly, the following track, "Hi-Five," juxtaposes a moderate tempo against an oddly melancholy refrain. Set to a 70s rock groove that highlights her vocal trills, Olsen croons, "I feel so lonesome I could cry, but instead I'll pass the time."
"Lights Out," the album's sixth song, uses Olsen's high-lonesome vibratos to deliver a retro-country type ballad that encourages the listener to "stand your ground," touting that "all you need is one good thought strong in your mind" in order to do so.
The remainder of the album's 11 tracks are slow and thought provoking, capturing all the bleakness of a hot desert sunset. These songs, along with others on the record, allow the listener to wade with Olsen through the depths of her heartache, yet provide no resolution.
By mingling mundane melodies with heartbreaking lyrics, Olsen creates a distinct disconnect between song and meaning, almost trivializing the depth of her writing.
Other songs on the record include the inaugural angsty track, "Unf***theworld," the bizarrely depressing "Dance Slow Decades" and "Iota," and the break-up tune "Stars."
If you are a fan of staid, indie melodies and retro-modern beats, then Angel Olsen's new album "Burn Your Fire for No Witness" is probably for you. Although by no means warm or exciting, Olsen's newest compilation is a testament to the fact that heartbreak can help create the most interesting music.
Designed by a female artist who is rarely seen smiling, "Burn Your Fire for No Witness" reflects Angel Olsen's unusually detached nature through a compelling collection of songs.