Angel Olsen’s “My Woman” Is Raw, Tender And So Beautiful

We can all agree that the feeling of love is as confusing as it is wonderful. It brings on strong emotions, from curiosity to happiness to deep sadness to anger that can so easily spiral from one extreme to another in a blink of an eye. Angel Olsen’s My Woman captures what it’s like to feel some of those emotions from one side of a relationship, and how to accept that you must let go.  

We open with the sweet sound of Intern. Straight away, it shows us the beauty of falling in love and wanting to do anything to protect that from dying before the flame ignites. Her light voice sings above the simple bass melody that shines with hints of electric keyboard. She sings, “I don’t care what the papers say/It’s just another intern with a resume/I’m gonna fall in love with you someday” as she sets us up for what we are about to hear.

The sound completely changes as we move to Never Be Mine. Her folk-like voice glides above the strumming guitar as she sings a song of heartbreak. In a letter to a lost love that never was, she is regretful that the relationship is over, but lets it go in acceptance. “I watch you turn and walk away,” she sings. I wish it could always be that simple.

The next few songs Shut Up Kiss Me and Give It Up are lit with a fiery passion and desperation. It is, however, Not Gonna Kill You that caught my attention before it even started. With a title as blunt as this, it’s hard not be a little bit curious. Its sinister vibe lies in the haunting harmonies and the deep sound of the music. The hard sound of the music and shouting tone in her voice reflects a ‘tough love’ reaction to these feelings of pain that come with loving someone so deeply. Although the pain is so real, you wouldn’t want feel anything less.

“A love that never seems to curse or to confine/Will be forever never lost or too defined/However painful let it break down all of me/’Til I am nothing else but the feeling.”

It’s not until Heart Shaped Face that we have slowed down to more gentle display of tenderness. She’s heartbroken by the loss of the relationship, but still accepts that it can’t be saved. “I never wanted to be someone who had to leave it all behind/Even still there is no escape for what I face, I faced before/Have whatever love you wanna have/But I can’t be here anymore.”

The album’s longer songs allow the listener time to reflect on their past relationships, which is what happens when we hear Woman’s mostly slow and sad melody. It makes you think about how they ended. Were you ready to let go straight away? Did it take some convincing? Do you now understand why it had to end?

Olsen asks her partner “to understand what makes [her] a woman” with such strength that anyone would admire. It is as if she wants to save her relationship from turning to dust. At the same time, however, she wants to feel as positive about the loss as she believes the other person does. She still knows that this would not be a proper reflection of how she actually feels deep inside. She perfectly portrays the confusion that comes with losing someone you care so deeply about, and not being able to express exactly how it makes you feel. “I’d do anything/To see it all/The way that you do/But I’d be lying.”

We end with Pops, which drips with a Lana Del Rey atmosphere. The drowned out effect on her voice likens the track to the sound of an old record playing; something that has been hidden for a while, but is ready to be pulled out for a spin. The piano melody is slow and heartfelt. Olsen is lost and full of emotion as she says goodbye to her relationship. Halfway through the track, however, the emotion in her voice escalates. It’s hurt and angry, but it quickly begins to understand.

We are left with a haunting final line. “I’ll be the thing that lives in the dream when it’s gone,” she sings before the piano guides us away.

Throughout the album, I was imagining what these songs would sound like live. With emotions as strong as these, it’s only natural to wonder. We’ll just have to wait for Olsen’s Australian Tour in November and December to see for ourselves.

My Woman is available now.

Image: Pitchfork