To say that this album took me by surprise is a tremendous understatement. I had heard about Angel Olsen’s 2012 debut, Half Way Home, in passing, but that in no way prepared me for what her sophomore release would provide.

For starters, Olsen’s vocals are absolutely incredible. Her ghostly, vintage pitch channels Loretta Lynn’s definitive style and Patsy Cline’s poignancy, and finds a way to blast through the stratosphere à la Annie Erin Clark (a.k.a. St. Vincent).

The haunting “Unfucktheworld” discreetly opens the album, but quickly establishes what an incredibly personal album this truly is — “I wanted nothing/But for this to be the end,” hushes Olsen.

This is when Olsen starts to fearlessly jump genres, but not in a way that waters down the songs to a disappointing middle. Rather, what Olsen does is spotlight her efforts on a track-to-track basis, providing focus and depth. Follow-up “Forgiven/Forgotten” is riddled with reverb and garage-rock aesthetics, while “Hi-Five” is alt-country at its best.

The highlights are plentiful and throughout, whether they arrive brash and spacious (“Lights Out,” “Stars”) or minimal and soul-crushing (“Dance Slow Decades,” “Windows”). All in all, Burn Your Fire for No Witness is unswerving, unadulterated and nothing short of remarkable.

By Cory Jones

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