Angel Olsen is having a good year. The singer has released an acclaimed record, gained a boatload of new fans, and has now prepped a rarities and B-sides compilation. Phases is out tomorrow on Jagjaguwwar and it's as fine a release as one would expect from this singer, and a fairly succinct summation of her enormous skill as a performer too.
"Fly On The Wall" opens things with a slow-surge of near-alt-country, while the more languid "Special" sees Olsen croon around a slinky melodic line that positively haunts. Elsewhere, "All Right Now" offers up delicate folk, while the woozy alt-rock of "Sweet Dreams" suggests a marriage of the styles of solo Kendra Smith and Maria McKee. The softer songs here, like "Endless Road", certainly charm with a sort of hypnotic grace but the numbers that are more direct, like a fine cover of Springsteen's "Tougher Than The Rest", possess an equal kind of power. Taken as a whole, this variety of styles indicates -- once again -- that Angel Olsen is one of the best vocalists working today. Her mastery of a range of material is impressive, as is her ability to deliver a full palette of emotional colors. From hints of vulnerability, to bursts of forcefulness, Angel Olsen somehow manages to seem the heir to both Dusty Springfield and Bobbie Gentry, for two easy comparison points. And still, ignoring those worthy influences, a listener is simply overwhelmed with the quiet fire and sure power of Olsen's voice, especially so here on Phases. The overall impact of her singing is something special, and something so rare that even a bunch of B-sides and rarities can seem major pieces of art.
[Photo: Kylie Coutts]