Review: Angel Olsen – “Burn Your Fire For No Witness”

Angel Olsen: Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Angel Olsen
Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Jagjaguwar – February 18th 2014
By Joshua Khan (@blaremag)
Find it at: iTunes | Insound | Official Store



“Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better”. Quoting Henry Rollins may be foolish, but his admission quietly connects the dots that assemble Burn Your Fire For No Witness – a Jagjaguwar release that will weather and become even more pristine as it ages. It’s one from Angel Olsen that cuts deeper the more you listen to it and partly because every spin channels abrasive alt-pop and lethargic songwriting that purposely leave scars. One day a song like “Stars” will expertly display Olsen’s new band. The next it sketches a miserable situation, one distraught with frustration and drowned by the continual ache to “scream the feeling til there’s nothing left”. The day after that, you’re stunned by Olsen’s rustic, Missouri-bred voice which insists you pay attention to how it’s both lovely and melancholic, and occasionally the only thing you want to hear for hours on end.

The disconnect Olsen creates with a genuine remark or the strum of a D chord is flawless. Burn Your Fire For No Witness isn’t a cheery record. It bleeds honesty as “Unfucktheworld” leaks a pint or two: “I wanted nothing but for this to be the end/ For this to never be a tied and empty hand/ If all the trouble in my heart would only mend/ I lost my dream, I lost my reason all again”. Without remorse, the album stakes hearts, pulsating towards the ruthless frenzy of early ’90s fuzz (“Forgiven/Forgotten”) and exploiting alt-country’s need to puncture your skin (“Hi-Five”) before letting a little rock classic (“High & Wild”) unwind with a potent guitar intermission. All the while, Olsen’s feelings are at war with each other – trying to adapt to a transformation – and before long “Lights Out” reinstates her candor: “No one’s gonna hear it the same as it’s said/ No one’s gonna listen to it straight from your head”.

Truthfully, it’s hard to escape from her voice as it’s equally wounded and powerful, especially when textural guitars and rusted-out rhythms enter the frame with timing. The additions force Burn Your Fire to grow on you and even more so, have urged Olsen to become more of a devastating narrator than an electric storyteller. She’s still married to the latter art but on the record’s weighty closer “Windows”, she unconsciously aligns herself with Jenny Lewis, Aimee Mann and Emmylou Harris, opening up a piece of herself that continues to flicker and trade blows with the little stagnant ex that is her past: “Won’t you open a window sometime? What’s so wrong with the light?”.

Listen: “Lights Out”, “Unfucktheworld”, “Windows”, “High & Wild” || Watch: “Forgiven/Forgotten”

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