11 Songs, 43 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Angel Olsen brings an intensity to her first album, Half Way Home, that’s both disturbing and thrilling to hear. The Chicago-based singer/songwriter fully emerges with a batch of songs distinguished by their exquisitely melancholy imagery and gauzy, insinuating melodies. Traces of Roy Orbison’s operatic flights and Edith Piaf’s self-lacerating arias can be heard, as well as the smoldering bluesiness of Karen Dalton and Judy Henske. All comparisons aside, Olsen is a riveting vocalist who can tenderly caress a lyric before ripping it in two with a heartbreaking wail. Tracks like “Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow,” “The Sky Opened Up," and “Lonely Universe” are magnificent invocations of personal darkness. The erotic daydream “Acrobat” and the yearning, Patsy Cline–like “The Waiting” lighten the mood somewhat, though romantic cautionary tales like “Miranda” are more typical. The closing track “Tiniest Seed”—an aching alt-country ballad—may be the album’s most seductive number. Olsen’s deft guitar work and a softly insistent rhythm section lend Half Way Home a stark, often eerie sound, bringing out the haunting qualities in her uncanny, remarkably accomplished music.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Angel Olsen brings an intensity to her first album, Half Way Home, that’s both disturbing and thrilling to hear. The Chicago-based singer/songwriter fully emerges with a batch of songs distinguished by their exquisitely melancholy imagery and gauzy, insinuating melodies. Traces of Roy Orbison’s operatic flights and Edith Piaf’s self-lacerating arias can be heard, as well as the smoldering bluesiness of Karen Dalton and Judy Henske. All comparisons aside, Olsen is a riveting vocalist who can tenderly caress a lyric before ripping it in two with a heartbreaking wail. Tracks like “Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow,” “The Sky Opened Up," and “Lonely Universe” are magnificent invocations of personal darkness. The erotic daydream “Acrobat” and the yearning, Patsy Cline–like “The Waiting” lighten the mood somewhat, though romantic cautionary tales like “Miranda” are more typical. The closing track “Tiniest Seed”—an aching alt-country ballad—may be the album’s most seductive number. Olsen’s deft guitar work and a softly insistent rhythm section lend Half Way Home a stark, often eerie sound, bringing out the haunting qualities in her uncanny, remarkably accomplished music.

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Ratings and Reviews

4.9 out of 5

32 Ratings

32 Ratings

oh good

bwhcuts

the end to a year where i only half liked new releases by some perennial favorite bands and new artists alike. i was beginning to think it was just me. but here is something worth loving. finally.

Wow wow wow wow wow.

rhkaneko

Though the album is largely stark and simple, I was on the edge of my seat through the entire session. Her voice and phrasing beautiful, it eminds me of Johnny Cash. Where you expect a full belt or a heavy harmony, she remains plain and naked, free from melodic clichés. And yet, you feel the full force of the song, at that moment. Its brilliant. This is one of the best albums of 2012.

Transports me

ellenlovesmusic

I love how Angel's voice and songs transport me to another time. She is truly incredible.

About Angel Olsen

Raised in St. Louis, Missouri and later relocating to Chicago, Illinois, indie folk singer/songwriter Angel Olsen began performing in St. Louis coffee shops in her teenage years, eventually branching out and tapping into a network of like-minded artists. Olsen worked with California musician Emmett Kelly as part of his collective the Cairo Gang, singing harmonies on Bonnie "Prince" Billy's 2010 album The Wonder Show of the World, as well as its 2011 follow-up, Wolfroy Goes to Town. In 2010, Olsen released Strange Cacti, a cassette of original Americana songs that was later reissued as a 12", both with Bathetic Records. Half Way Home, a spare album with understated arrangements and a homespun approach somewhere between '50s country crooners and her indie contemporaries, was issued with the same label in 2012.

In early 2013, Olsen added drummer Josh Jaeger and bassist Stewart Bronaugh to flesh out her stripped-back sound, which added a brooding, garage rock appeal to her intimate music. Soon after forming the trio, Olsen returned to the studio with producer John Congleton to track sessions for her third album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, which saw release in early 2014 via Jagjaguwar. The record was critically well-received and marked Olsen's debut on the Billboard 200.

By then resettled in Asheville, North Carolina, she expanded her sound still further on her fourth LP, 2016's My Woman, touring as a six-piece to support its release. Jagjaguwar followed it in 2017 with Phases, a compilation of Olsen rarities such as early demos and unreleased material from the My Woman sessions. ~ Fred Thomas & Scott Kerr

HOMETOWN
St. Louis, MO
BORN
1987

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