Angel Olsen

By
Photography PHIL POYNTER

Published February 17, 2014

COAT: MIU MIU. TURTLENECK: SUNSPEL. STOCKINGS: HUE. BRACELET: OLSEN’S OWN. RINGS: CATBIRD. SNEAKERS: CONVERSE. STYLING: KAREN KAISER.

For a singer-songwriter with so much to say, Angel Olsen was almost unable to share anything on her new album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar). “A week before we went into the studio, I couldn’t sleep I was so excited—and then I got a cold and lost my voice immediately,” recalls Olsen with a groan, now bundled up against a frigid morning in Brooklyn and sipping coffee at a café. “But because we were recording a lot of the material live, I could just focus on playing, and then add vocals later on. I got better in four days and was so relieved.”

Once the 27-year-old Olsen’s voice returned fully, in all its alluring contradiction—from its lower range of throaty, rootsy hitches to the highest reaches of featherweight, jazz-inflected warbles—she was able to assert herself as she had hoped. A former member of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s backing band, Olsen rose as a solo singer-guitarist in the Chicago DIY scene before releasing her lo-fi folk-pop debut, Half Way Home, in 2012. She takes on a newly mercurial air on Burn Your Fire, alternately cooing and hollering as she vividly captures heartbreak in all its fluid moods, from the righteous fury of “Are you blind? Are you deaf?” (“Windows”) to the bittersweet lament of “I quit my dreaming the moment that I found you / I started dancing just to be around you” (“Unfucktheworld”).

“When people disappoint you, it’s just as much your responsibility to be aware of it and what you don’t want,” Olsen says haltingly of her hard-bitten poetry. “I’m glad those feelings came through me, that I had to face them.”

She didn’t have to do it alone; backed by a full band for the first time, as well as producer John Congleton (the Paper Chase, the Polyphonic Spree), she adopted a richer, more professional sound and dabbled in distorted psychedelic rock and amiable, shuffling country. The result proves cathartic, for both listener and creator—in fact, Olsen loved recording the songs in Asheville, North Carolina, so much, that she recently moved there.

“I feel like I’m finally doing a lot of things I’ve wanted to do but haven’t had the courage to try,” she says. “Now I’m at a point where I say, ‘Why don’t I just go out there and do it?’”

COSMETICS: MAKE UP FOR EVER, INCLUDING LIQUID LIFT FOUNDATION, SATINY EYESHADOW IN 127 METALLIC TAUPE, AQUA EYES IN 25L MATTE BROWN, PRO WATERPROOF EYELINER IN 1 BLACK, SMOKY EXTRAVAGANT MASCARA IN 1 BLACK, AND SUPER LIP GLOSS IN 15 TOBACCO; CHANEL, INCLUDING LE VERNIS IN ROUGE NOIR AND COCO BLUE. HAIR: BRIAN BUENAVENTURA FOR ORLO SALON/MANAGEMENT+ ARTISTS. MAKEUP: MARLA BELT/STREETERS LONDON. MANICURE: DAWN STERLING/MELBOURNE ARTISTS MANAGEMENT.