Angel Olsen released her compilation album, Phases, just one year after her groundbreaking third album, My Woman.
The album consists of demos, B-sides and covers spanning five years of her career. Phases offers yet another personal look into the artist’s worldview — perhaps, in a wider, sweeping way.
Both albums express a voice that is purely her own — a voice that Olsen has curated and redefined since her beginnings. Whereas My Woman told a distinct story of sadness and love —a piece of the storybook of Olsen’s mind — Phases feels more fluid. Instead of one journey, Phases takes listeners on a broader tour of the inner-workings of Olsen’s emotional landscape and creative process.
Much like past works, Olsen’s voice has a timeless quality that mystifies and haunts, in a way reminiscent of a crooning Stevie Nicks. Her use of drawn out vibrato and raspy, almost gothic timbre contrast in a way that makes the listening experience feel intricate and full.
From her soft-spoken demeanor to her carefree guitar work, the album feels easy to swallow while still keeping its thought-provoking nature in check. While her lyrical talents are one of her strong suits, one can distinguish the themes of each song through the way she performs the songs alone.
Focusing on a plethora of topics in a varied chronology, Phases feels perhaps less cohesive than past works. However, as described by Olsen in a recent Instagram post, the album surely does feel like “a diary [that] was stolen and mass produced.”
Like individual moments plucked from her own timeline, Olsen creates an album that showcases the variety in her approach to songwriting, and her stylistic and thematic diversity.
The album begins with “Fly On Your Wall,” a dark yet dreamy tune inspired greatly by art rock legends such as John Cale and The Velvet Underground. The song was originally recorded during the My Woman sessions, and was an addition to Bandcamp’s anti-Trump fundraising campaign, Our First 100 Days.
The album carries on with a song of similar stylistic nature, “Special.” At over seven minutes long, the song serves as the longest on the album, yet doesn’t seem to drag on.
The track, filled with lo-fi riffs and low, lamenting pleas, stands out as a distinct project in its own right. With drawn-out lyrics like, “Want to be special, something like your mother,” the song breathes new life into a genre of psychedelic rock evocative of Jefferson Airplane.
“Sweet dreams” combines cryptic howling and a grittier guitar style, and serves as one of the few fast paced songs of the album. Full of a distinct echoing style, the song is captivating and somehow cements into your subconscious, forcing you to think about its meaning long after the song ends.
Olsen feels especially timeless in “For You,” a sweet, almost cheeky love song. “For You” serves as a soft guitar piece that almost feels like it’s straight out of the 1940s. With lyrics like “The stars were placed there for you, for you/ Eternity flies on through and through for you,” the track pulls on the heartstrings of the inner romantic in all of us.
Olsen combines both dark and light themes in an unconventional way. While lacking cohesion, “Phases” more than makes up for it in creativity.