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Sunday, May 03, 2015

Burn Your Fire for No Witness

I've always been partial to female singer-songwriters, such as Suzanne Vega and Shawn Colvin, and I can add another to the list. Angel Olsen has some great songwriting chops, a smoky voice, and biting lyrics. Her 2014 album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, is excellent, if not depressing.

Olsen has a back-up band on many of the songs, but a few are straight voice and guitar, like you might hear in a coffeehouse. They are also the songs of a bad breakup, so if you need music to commiserate with, this is for you. She has written all the songs, and I wouldn't call any of them cheerful.

The record starts with a song called "Unfuck the World," and the first lines are:

"I quit my dreaming when I found you
I started dancing just to be around you
Here's to thinking that it all meant so much more
I kept my mouth shut and that opened up the door."

There are numerous uses of the word dream, or wishes. In my present state of mind, I interpret this as a person who has realized they were living a lie, and just woke up from it. As to what it really means, I have no idea, but of course with music it's all up for interpretation. A song called "Hi-Five" hearkens back to Hank Williams, opening with "I'm so lonesome I could cry," and another called "Stars" goes:

"I think you like to see me lose my mind
you treat me like a child, I'm angry, blind
I feel so much at once that I could scream
I wish I had the voice of everything."

I don't want to suggest that this record is a downer, especially if you're not in a depressed mood. The melodies are intricate and intriguing, and Olsen's voice is quite lovely. Vega and Colvin's songs are exactly laugh riots, either. Maybe I'm drawn to this kind of folk music for a reason.

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