Album Review: Angel Olsen – Phases

By Emily DiAlbert, Contributor
[Jagjaguwar; 2017]
Rating: 9/10

Key Tracks: “Special”, “All Right Now”, “How Many Disasters”

It’s hard to believe that alt-rock queen Angel Olsen has only been in the business for six years. But yes– it’s true, and Phases, her latest record, takes you back in time to Olsen’s early years and beyond. Phases is a compilation of never-before-heard demos, B-sides, rarities, and covers from over the years—taking fans through the literal phases of her music. The album highlights Olsen’s style changes and growth, evoking bittersweet nostalgia and sentimentality in all that listen.

“Special”, recorded during the production of Olsen’s fifth album, MY WOMAN, combines her haunting, sultry voice with an echoing electric guitar. The use of stirring instrumentals in the track produce a drive for sparking emotions in nullity. “Special” is an evocative cry for something more, exploring what it means to want to feel important in a monotonous relationship. Lyrics including “Give me a fever, show me some reason / Love me whenever it’s out of season / Want to be special, something like your mother” highlight Olsen’s yearn. The track is a true stand-out on Phases, using a unique musicality and clocking in at a whopping seven minutes long.

“All Right Now” was included as a bonus track on Olsen’s 2014 album Burn Your Fire For No Witness and makes an all-star appearance on Phases. The song focuses on a relationship that is overcoming past struggles. Olsen cries out: “You do not have to reach out / To somebody new / You do not have to hold her / In your fingertips / It’s always been there with you,” demonstrating how she’s willing to work on the rocky relationship. The echoing of Olsen’s tantalizing voice combined with soft, chiming percussion and calming guitar strokes provoke intensely-emotional tranquility. After one listen, it becomes apparent that “All Right Now” is an utterly-beautiful, timeless gem.

Other gems on the album include a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s 1987 track “Tougher than the Rest”, her unreleased demo “How Many Disasters” and “Endless Road”, a bonus track from her second album, Burn Your Fire For No Witness. In complete honesty, none of the songs on this album are bad or even mediocre—they all demonstrate how amazing of an artist Angel Olsen is.

Listen here:

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