After the lonesome folk and skeletal roadhouse soul of her debut album, 2012’s Half Way Home, Angel Olsen turned up the intensity on Burn Your Fire for No Witness, and she does it again on MY WOMAN. The title’s in all caps for a reason: The St. Louis, Missouri, native’s third album is bigger in both the acrobatic feats of her always-agile voice and the widescreen, hi-fi sound that Olsen and co-producer Justin Raisen bring to the table.
With the very first song, “Intern,” it’s clear that Olsen has taken us somewhere new. A slow dance in a dive bar at last call, it might be familiar turf were it not for the synthesizers that cast an eerie glow across the song’s red-velvet backdrop. “Never Be Mine” harnesses the anguish of ’60s girl groups in jangling guitar and crisp backbeats; “Shut Up Kiss Me” couches desire in terms so heated the mic practically melts beneath Olsen’s yelp.
Mindful of its ancestry but never expressly retro, the album is a triumph of rock ’n’ roll pathos, an exquisite dissertation on the poetry of twang and tremolo. And even if “There is nothing new/Under the sun,” as Olsen sings on the fateful “Heart Shaped Face,” she is forever finding ways to file down everyday truths to a finer point, drawing blood with every new prick. As she sighs over watery piano and fathomless reverb on the heartbreaking closer, “Pops,” “It hurts to start dreaming/Dreaming again.” But that pain is precisely what makes MY WOMAN so unforgettable, and so true.