Angel Olsen is magic. Her performances are spellbinding and her onstage banter is bewitching, if not awkward and entirely preoccupied with Twix. Having spent the last few years in Chicago, Olsen has gained popularity swiftly. This year, she scored a coveted slot at the Pitchfork Music Festival. Alas, her time in the Windy City is coming to a close as she embarks on the next stage of her rapidly ascending career.
The first stop on her current tour was essentially her farewell to the city at Lincoln Hall. As she and her band took stage, you could tell that she was amongst friends in the intimate setting of the extremely clear sounding venue. The set began with, perhaps, the best track off of her one and only LP, last year's Half Way Home. “Free” is just one example of how she has grown as a songwriter since her absolute heartbreaker of a debut EP, Strange Cacti. Those releases, from Bathetic Records, are vastly different. The EP is extremely spartan as the performances contain nothing more than Olsen's voice and finger-picked guitar played in what sounded like an abandoned church. The LP explored some blues aspects and had a much improved fidelity.
In addition to her charmingly uncomfortable anecdotes about Neil Young's On the Beach and a couple in the park “devouring tacos”, she is an adept storyteller as is evidenced on “Miranda”. The concert finished up with Olsen sans backing band. Admittedly “killing time” between songs, you could tell that some people didn't quite understand what was going on as she occasionally went into hysterics, struggling to compose herself. When she did, she gave the crowd what they wanted, “Creator, Destroyer” but had to finish with a different number because she didn't want to go out on that note. The song itself is amazing but the tone of it being the finale would have severely undercut the overall performance.
The show consisted largely of new songs that have been recorded and due to be released on Jagjaguwar, to whom she has recently signed, as well as the A-side to her most rocking release to date, “Sleepwalker”. The earlier songs were sad and sometimes angry whereas there is an immense effulgence to the new batch. Her talent knows no limits and no genre can contain her. The one thing in common with all of her songs is that her heart stays adorned on her sleeve with a Twix hanging out of the jacket pocket. Olsen may have outgrown our fair city but she is certainly welcome back whenever she likes.