Angel Olsen’s new rarities collection proves her creative depth has been there from the start | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Angel Olsen’s new rarities collection proves her creative depth has been there from the start 

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click to enlarge Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen

courtesy the artist

Onetime Chicagoan Angel Olsen showed signs of vast talent years ago, but the artistic growth, charisma, and self-possession she projected during her powerful set at this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival proved she’s the real deal. It’s illuminating to consider her development in the context of November’s Phases (Jagjaguwar), a collection of rarities and previously unreleased material from 2012 to 2016. Its songs may not appear on her official albums, but most artists would kill to produce anything as good as her outtakes. Among the recent recordings—including some fully formed songs cut from last year’s breakthrough album My Woman—is the gorgeously hypnotic “Special,” a Velvets-y incantation where Olsen’s sinuous phrasing conveys uncertainty amid slowly intensifying strumming. Her earlier selections are no less satisfying: “California,” a sublime love song she cut before signed with Jagjaguwar in 2013, is fueled by the euphoria of potentially blossoming romance as Olsen explores her full vocal range, from vibrato-heavy cries to low conversational entreaties. There are also several guitar-and-voice demos from the summer of 2015 and an intimate, deeply affecting cover of Roky Erickson’s “For You.” I had assumed the collection would show a movement from folkish simplicity to the more pop-leaning sound Olsen embraced on her previous album; instead it proves that she’s drawn from various threads of American music from the very start. But whether she’s playing with a full band or solo, her powerhouse voice ties them all together in something completely her own.   v

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