Best albums of 2016 Dec02

Best albums of 2016

Listing time again: some of the best albums of 2016.

Angel Olsen – My Woman...

Angel Olsen follows up her acclaimed 2nd album ‘Burn Your Fire For No Witness’ with another stunning record.

Best Songs of 2014 Dec10

Best Songs of 2014

Let’s list again: 30 of my favourite songs of 2014.

Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness...

We crave authenticity in rock and roll above all else. We need to know that our icons are the real deal, that they live the words they write, that they hurt and bleed like the rest of us. Authenticity is the currency of the true greats – a host of plastic pretenders fall off the production line with a wearying regularity, but it’s the ones with ‘4 real’ scratched in blood that capture our hearts and hold us forever in their thrall. Barely a minute into Burn Your Fire For No Witness Angel Olsen sings ‘if all the trouble in my heart would only mend’ in a cracked, quivering voice and we know, instantly, she means it. All doubts are banished. ‘Unfucktheworld’ is the first track off an album that burns with a confessional intensity that is frightening. We are bearing witness to heartbreak and meltdown, to a tearing apart at the seams and yes it’s painful, but painful in a curiously cathartic way. There is a quiet, stoic rage in the way these songs are delivered – Olsen moves from the giddy, grunge revenge of ‘Forgiven/Forgotten’ to the distracted numbness of ‘White Fire’, all the time commanding centre stage, at the heart of the maelstrom. This is a record that isn’t so much produced as disassembled, leaving just the bare bones. It comes as almost a jolt to hear a contemporary album that has not been compressed, auto tuned, processed, digitised and perfected to a point where the songs have lost all feeling; we get to hear electric guitar, bass, drums and vocals in their raw, elemental state, and God, it sounds good. Early PJ Harvey and Cat Power are reference points, but in reality this is the work of a unique and...

Angel Olsen live @ Whelans 6 June 2014...

This promised to be one of those special nights – Angel Olsen arrived for the first of three Irish dates having released one of the year’s most striking albums. ‘Burn Your Fire for No Witness’ won her a legion of new admirers – Olsen’s searing, confessional intensity and raw, elemental approach to making music seems to have struck a chord with music fans tired of slick, over produced rock devoid of any real substance. Whelan’s was near capacity when Olsen and her band took to the stage – there was no fuss, no fanfare, they just arrived, plugged in and started to play. The first thing you notice is that voice – it is a potent weapon, capable of moving from the sweetest yearning to a full on impassioned cry in the blink of an eye. The band faithfully replicates the low-fi indie country vibe of the records – at times, it was like listening to Patsy Cline fronting the Velvet Underground as Olsen pulled together a set comprising of songs from each of her three albums. Old favourites ‘Tiniest Lights’ and ‘Miranda’ bore up pretty well while ‘Lights Out’, ‘Stars’ and ‘High and Wild’ from her most recent album predictably drew the biggest cheers of the night. After about an hour, the band departed and Olsen took centre stage – for fifteen minutes, she held the audience absolutely spellbound with stripped back versions of three of her songs. The highlight was an absolutely stunning version of ‘White Fire’ – this was Olsen at her most effective; every hoarse whisper and anguished cry tightened her grip on an already captive audience. There was very little of the annoying audience chatter that seems to mar most gigs in Dublin these days, a testament to the...