TRACK REVIEW: Angel Olsen “Hi-Five”

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“I feel so lonesome I could cry,” Angel Olsen half warbles, half snarls on “Hi-Five.” The new single off her forthcoming album, Burn Your Fire for No Witness, blasts by in just under three minutes . Olsen’s voice bristles with clarity, striking a shimmering balance between vulnerability, earnestness, and rock and roll swagger. Pegged as an early frontrunner for a 2014 favorite, Olsen released her debut, Halfway Home in 2012. The first album favored folky acoustic guitar stripped down to spotlight the singer’s voice—one worth spotlighting, with a barreling, Southen-tinged electricity to it that ultimately overpowered its acoustic backdrop.

Nothing could make Olsen’s voice sound bad, but “Hi-Five” is flattered by its harshly lo-fi backdrop. Swampy guitar lines seethe in reverb, prolonging their high notes in the same way that Olsen draws out the highlights of her vocal lines. One of the singer’s many talents has always been an elegant lyrical handling of angst; her songs deal with isolation, betrayal, and being unable to speak one’s mind. The vocal lines double back on themselves too quickly to be mistaken for self-pity, the dejection cracks a smile, and on “Hi-Five,” Olsen follows up the crooning “Are you lonely too? Are you lonely too?” with an unsentimental “High five, so am I.”

The new album is a more rugged approach to familiar material, but that doesn’t mean Burn Your Fire will lose the intimacy of Olsen’s previous work. Although the increase in guitar work can make it seem, on first listen, as if Olsen is abandoning the folky stylings we saw so much of in Halfway Home, it’s really just a punchier interpretation of the same gorgeous, forlorn soul music. Instead of a new direction, Olsen’s recent singles seem to better encapsulate the goals she’s always had.

Burn Your Fire for No Witness will be out February 18th on Jagjaguwar. You can listen to “Hi-Five” below via SoundCloud, and click here to watch the video “Forgiven/Forgotten,” the first single off the new album.

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