Something’s stirred in Angel Olsen since the release of 2012’s ‘Halfway Home’ LP. What was previously a content, albeit melancholy-laced drift has since been ruthlessly stamped on.
With a rotten tooth to spit out and a desire to stay below the three minute mark with each of her songs, ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ is a record about wanting to be adored, if only for a split second. ‘Sometimes / Not always,’ as ‘Hi-Five’ so boldly begs over jazz hands piano and a fuzz-sunken guitar line. Often hitting a happy end-point, there’s still a bitterness to the final taste. In its apparent desperate seeking of recognition, the album definitely manages to stand out in a crowd, but it doesn’t always like what it sees.
It’s an album that seeks to answer an overwhelming number of questions. As its opening track declares, it wishes to ‘Unfucktheworld’. Previously Olsen could be declared to lack an agenda behind her folk-laced lull. Not this time. Always vivid and often affecting, the record deals with love and loss in a way that constantly resonates.
‘Forgiven / Forgotten’ is the sound of Olsen ditching a folk routine for more bittersweet execution. Guitars are amped up, production as clear as day. Staples of the previous album are alluded to with ‘White Fire’ and ‘Enemy’, which contrast softly softly delivery with a voice that commands. These vocals sway from fluttering ’50s pop to boldly bellowed chants not shy of full-on punk. It’s ‘Lights Out’ that strikes gold, however. Easily Olsen’s finest moment, it’s a breathtaking centrepiece that gives in to reality, admits defeat and gets on with it. ‘No-one’s gonna wait there with you,’ cries the chorus, atop a melodic punch that sounds ironically, wildly optimistic. It’s a song that represents the brilliant contradictions of ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ in one astute, fatal blow. Admitting that sometimes life will drag you down, it still manages to peer out to the other side, blistering sunlight shining straight through.
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