Everything old is new again in Angel Olsen’s beautiful songwriting and performance. A hush fell over the massive crowd at the sold out Lee’s Palace on Tuesday night, as Angel Olsen launched into her first song – Drunk and with Dreams, off of her 2011 6 song EP Strange Cacti. Starting with a slow, dreamy guitar- which blended into a Spanish sound, her voice, soft and lilting, sweet and subtle, until she hit the line “I’ll be the one”, then it became fevered, an almost desperate, cracked pitch. After every song, the crowd would be silent for a fraction of a second, no one spoke, no one coughed, we cheered, we clapped where appropriate, but not one person wanted to miss a perfectly sung word from the ethereal Angel Olsen.
Olsen has a folk, Americana sound like something from decades ago, but she blends her sad, dreary, sometimes vengeful lyrics into soft lullabies that build into an almost grunge tinged sound. The two guitars, bass and drum contribute quite beautifully to the sound, but like Grizzly Bear, she could do an entire set completely a capella, and it would be just as captivating. Her voice and lyrics take you on a journey through your own tragedies, and autobiographical or not, she would chuckle before certain lyrics or songs, as if she was having an internal dialog and private joke with herself. When she launched into Sweet Dreams, which sounding inherently 90’s, she cries “when I sleep, I sleep alone”, crying out and stressing on the word “alone”, as if it were a foreboding manifesto to us all about the inevitability of heartbreak and isolation that comes with it.
Finishing off completely sans her band on stage to May As Well, as she sang the words “is that my heart that’s splitting open”, she chuckled again. Quite candid and funny on stage, at one point noting the scent of weed in the air, and asking us to “share with your friends”, worrying about what was in a shot bought for her and passed up from the back of the venue, she kept the night and banter light making me wonder just how much of her lyrics came from life experience, and how much is observed and written as a character. Forgoing an encore, the set ended abruptly after her thanking the crowd, and I walked away thinking how I could have listened to her play forever, yet was still so utterly satisfied with the entire show.
Lauren Morocco | @LaurenMorocc