By Ian Bremner
Last year’s MY WOMAN clearly saw Angel Olsen taking a step into a larger, bolder sonic direction. A new “phase” if you want to call it that. MY WOMAN was punchier, louder and more of a complete work than what she had been known for previously, yet just as delicate. Olsen’s solo career started out as a lo-fi singer-songwriter with a haunting voice and the simple strums of a guitar. MY WOMAN proved she could do both versions of herself seamlessly.
Whether you want to call Phases an “album” or a “collection of b-sides, demos and rarities” makes no difference. The record shows Olsen reaching new places while demonstrating how far she’s come. Phases is a glimpse into the past, present and possible artistic future for Olsen. Tracks like Fly On Your Wall and My Woman-session holdout, Special are fully flushed out songs that for whatever reason were left on the cutting room floor. Tunes like California, Sans and Tougher Than The Rest are demo-styled home recordings similar her early work. Olsen can go into a whispering hush, slight yodle or full on front-woman, and all versions suit her.
While parts of Phases are admittedly incomplete works, that’s part of the intrigue. The record lets you hear the process of song creation by someone arguably in her artistic prime. You couldn’t be blamed if your brain sometimes ponders what the songs may sound like with the full band treatment, but in most cases, the bare bones the songs are better left untouched. Long time fans of Angel Olsen will enjoy the peak into her song diary. Newer fans may take Phases as an inviting door into her past work. Both reasons are great excuses to dive in.
Listen to Phases via spotify
Official video for Special
Live performance of Sans from the KCRW studio