Sweet Sirens of Melancholy Folk

Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten often sound one beat away from melting down.

Angel Olsen

Phases

Jagjaguwar 

Whether performing stark acoustic folk or giving her confessional songs a jolt of electricity, Angel Olsen always sounds like she’s one beat away from a complete meltdown. Intended to fill the gap between 2016’s triumphant My Woman and her next studio project, Phases is a collection of odds and ends that works surprisingly well as a coherent album. Compiling outtakes, demos and other ephemera, this riveting 12-track set includes a slow-burning, seven-minute “Special” that compares favorably with early Velvet Underground, and a compelling unplugged cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Tougher Than the Rest.” Regardless of setting, the centerpiece is Olsen’s tense, commanding voice, which creates the uneasy sensation of spying on someone else’s crisis.

 

Sharon Van Etten

(it was) because i was in love

Vinyl Me Please/self-release

An expanded edition of Sharon Van Etten’s 2009 debut shows another way to bide time until the next new release. Retitled slightly and adding two more tracks from the same era, (it was) because i was in love conveys a sense of emotional devastation not far removed from Olsen’s, but in a sweeter, gentler fashion. Van Etten’s melancholy folk-pop has acquired more polish over the years, but the wounded soul on display in “Consolation Prize” and “Tornado” hasn’t changed substantially. Fans who discovered Van Etten recently through her striking performance on the rebooted “Twin Peaks” won’t be disappointed by this haunting archival gem.

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