by Philip Moss
Angel Olsen sets big wheels a-turnin’ as she defines the alt-country hybrid album
‘I wanna go home – go back to small things – I don’t belong here,’ she aches on Go Home. And after the synth-enveloping bombast of 2019’s All Mirrors, it’s a metaphor that rings true throughout this special sixth long player.
Everything about this record feels right – the muted sepia of the album cover; the playfulness of the typography; the press shots that capture Olsen looking and feeling at one – and it comes through in her songwriting.
The tone is set by All The Good Times – and producer, Jonathan Wilson (Father John Misty, Conor Oberst), captures it perfectly – as the opening notes of moaning organ make way for technicolour guitars lifted straight from George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. But this is by no means a nostalgic sounding or feeling record. Filled with heart, it’s a defining alt-country hybrid that affirms Olsen as one of the most important songwriters of our times – a record that, if it was released by Bob Dylan or John Prine, would be, and – don’t get me wrong – still should be labelled a modern classic.
Big Time certainly shifts through the emotional spectrum. The title track’s a rollicking number that sets the big wheels of her current state of happiness a-turnin’, as the chorus builds to, ‘I’m living, I’m loving, I’ve loved long before / I’m loving you big time, I’m loving you more!’ Dream Thing examines the baggage and torment of an old relationship transitioning into the early moments of excitement of a new one. While at the more mournful end, Ghost On also looks to the past – questioning (and over questioning) as to whether a broken heart can ever heart heal, and if it’s part of the human condition to accept the ‘good thing(s)’ that come to us.
Sometimes you have to take a step off the right path in order to realise what was so perfect about it. On All Mirrors, the North Carolinian stated that other people had their ‘hands in the pot,’ which separated her from the songs. So after what felt like an overt attempt to reach the ‘big time’, Angel Olsen has ironically found it – on a record with that very title – simply by being herself.
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