Angel Olsen on Her (Spectacular) New Album: "A Lot of It Is Based on Misunderstanding."
One of the first lines of Angel Olsen's critically acclaimed sophomore effort, Burn Your Fire For No Witness, is, "Here's to thinking that it all meant so much more."
Angel Olsen. Photo by Zia Anger
Don't let her soft wailing and palpable yearning for answers to mind-haunting questions fool you. To assume that this is just a breakup album means that you're both missing the point and proving the main point of Olsen's most powerful work to date.
"I guess I would call it more of a reflective album. ... I had been traveling so much and not really focusing on the things that actually bothered me about the interactions that I'd been having with people or my friends. I didn't know how to explain myself or my voice, and I feel like a lot of it came from being angry or realizing that it was my responsibility to figure it out ..." Olsen says. "I think a lot of it is about disappointment and miscommunication, and the idea that you're talking to one person about something, but maybe you realize later that person or maybe you weren't as connected to that idea as you'd thought. A lot of it is based on misunderstanding."
The John Congleton-produced album is 11 tracks of unfiltered and fearless longing and frustration. Through it, Olsen stares through your soul with the tranquil intensity and nihilistic disillusionment of a Lisbon sister in the second act. In an age when society is conditioned to flood the human psyche with outside stimuli to save us from our own discomfort or loneliness, Olsen runs from nothing. She confronts every dreaded consternation, illuminating every flaw or insecurity her music might stir within you, then pets your cheek to comfort you. It's not sympathy she's offering, rather solidarity or at the very least, commiseration.
"They might seem personal, but at the same time I think that a lot of [my songs] are just passing thoughts that are exaggerated and articulated in order to put into a song," Olsen says. "Then by the time I'm singing it, its more just a celebration of transparency."
Though Olsen holds the theme of transparency to high regard in her art, she admits that communication has not always been a strong suit when it comes to working on her own music. Though she'd always wanted to before, Burn Your Fire For No Witness is the first time that Olsen has collaborated with a band on her solo material.