On Wolfroy Goes To Town, the 2011 release of BONNIE PRINCE BILLY and his backing band THE CAIRO GANG, there’s been this moment, somewhere halfway through the outstanding track Quail & Dumplings, in which a female voice arose – majestic yet unstable, shivering yet clear and strong, proclaiming “why wait for someday, why make a plan?/ fuck birds in the bushes, let’s take ’em in hand!”. A moment so striking and entertaining, that one couldn’t help thinking that the voice behind it should record a whole album on it’s own. What we heard back then was vocalist ANGEL OLSEN, who instantly became an important touring member of the freaky live-band of the Prince Of Darkness, and, in the end of 2012 after experimenting on a few EPs, finally put out her debut record Half Way Home. Sadly, it took half a year to get it out in Europe as well, but now that it is, one couldn’t be more than thankful.
It’s an album of rough intensity, blatantly stressing its crucial strength; which simply is: Olsen’s voice. There’s rarely something alike to be found in the independent music scene – exceaptional vocalists like NINA NASTASSIA, JOANNA NEWSOM or NATASHA KHAN come to mind, yet this voice still hast something very unique about it. Set into a frame of soothing folk and slightly psychedelic roots rock, ANGEL OLSEN resonates about her childhood, the loss of home and security and the aching search for a place to belong – universal themes that she, as an adopted child, easily transports in an upright and touching way.
But, as the kind of songwriter, who’s basically sceptical about getting too personal lyrically, OLSEN finds herself in a constant effort to keep personal things at arm’s length. Consequently, there’s a lot of metaphorical abstraction going on, replacing f.e. the loss of a mother in the heartbreaking Lonely Universe with a semi-religious approach to nature: “Goodbye, sweet mother earth/ without you now, I’m a lonely universe”. It’s a simple, yet beautiful poetic imagery she creates, using her voice as a reliable contradiction to the beauty in her lyrics, for it is able to change from confident calmness to fragile strength within a second, expressing the dialectis of force: “it’s known that the tiniest seed is both simple and wild”.
Nonetheless, this music is not about perfection, of course, it’s all about the trembling strength of a voice, singing about things that won’t allow themselves to sound nice and clear. “Where is my harmony/ where is my friend/ her voice I hear loud and clear only now in my head/ When did the time become something that I feel/ and now as I dissapear, someone else becomes real” OLSEN sings in the wonderful Tiniest Seed. It’s not that Half Way Home is all sad and desperate, but you could feel a sense of general melancholy throughout the whole record – which makes its vigorous sound even more attracting. ANGEL OLSEN created something outstanding with this debut, proving her voice to be one of the most captivating things in the entire indie-folk-universe.