Tag Archives: Angel Olsen

Recapping Hopscotch17 Day Four

As you all know, I was at the Hopscotch Music Festival all weekend. It was the eighth year of the festival, and for the first time, the festival went all the way into Sunday night. I’m exhausted, but I had a great time.
Read my Thursday recap here, my Friday recap here, and my Saturday recap here.

All of Sunday’s action took place at Red Hat Amphitheatre, so there was no bouncing around to do. It started early, though, and it made for a long day. Oddly enough, staying in one place was more exhausting than moving around a lot.

After checking out of the hotel, I got downtown around 12:30 hoping to grab some lunch at my favourite spot before heading to Red Hat. Unfortunately, they were totally slammed and there was no chance of me getting in there, even at the counter. Sure I could have gone any number of other places, but I decided to head on in to Red Hat and just get a hot dog there.

No One Mind

The music started at 1:15 with a band from Greensboro called No One Mind. I had never heard of them. Their bio calls their sound psych pop, but I think it’s more like post-punk. They were loud and fast and decked out in all black. I liked them. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much memorable about them.

Jenny Besetzt

Next up was the Raleigh post-punk band Jenny Besetzt. They used to call Greensboro home, and they’ve played at Hopscotch at least three different years. They used to be more of a shoegaze band, but they shifted gears, and either way, I like what they do. I’ve always loved their set. Also, every time I see them, I can’t help but think how much their frontman John Wollaber looks like The Rural Alberta Advantage frontman Nils Edenloff. I could go on and on about the RAA, their lineup change and their forthcoming new album, but this isn’t about the RAA.

Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings

Next was the Cleveland punk rock band Cloud Nothings. I only have one of their records, and I don’t really know much about them, but this was still high on my list of band to see this weekend. I loved their set. They were really tight and the sound was pretty great. I don’t know if it was intentional, but the bass was heavy in the mix, and I could barely hear the second guitar. No matter, because they were all killing it.
Apparently, the fellas were on a very strange tour. They had been in Butte, Montana on Friday. Then Los Angeles on Saturday. Then Raleigh on Sunday afternoon. That’s a very strange travel itinerary.
I thought they were leaving about ten minutes of their time on the table, but they played a long bit at the end that seemed to have some element of improvisation. I’m not familiar enough with their catalog to know what song it was or if any of it was improvised. No matter what, it was really good.

Mary Timony and Nicole Lawrence

“Mary Timony plays Helium” was next. This was the thing that I was probably the most anticipatory about for the entire festival. Mary Timony is a sort of indie rock goddess. I loved her first band Autoclave. I was a HUGE fan of Helium. The Pirate Prude EP (1994) and the The Dirt of Luck LP (1995) are two of my favourite releases from that glorious decade. In fact, I’ve often said that Pirate Prude is perfect. PERFECT. Their only other album The Magic City (1997) didn’t resonate as much with me, but I still liked it a lot. Also, for some reason, I never fell in love with the Mary Timony solo stuff. Additionally, I’ve never really given her new band Ex Hex much of a chance, but I know that they’re well-liked.
Although I never saw Helium, I did get to see Mary Timony when she was a member of Wild Flag, and that was spectacular. I really wish that band had made more than just that one record.
Anyway, I was very excited to see these Helium songs being played. I kind of wish she had reunited the old band, but she recruited two guys from the band Hospitality and Nicole Lawrence from the band Iyez.
I was hoping for a few songs from Pirate Prude, but I think there was just one. And just a few from The Dirt of Luck. No matter, because it was a really good set.

Mount Moriah

Next up was Mount Moriah. This country-flavoured indie rock band from Durham is fronted by Heather McEntire. She’s a small woman with a big voice and a ton of talent. She’s been in punk bands, and she’s made other types of music, and she’s very quietly become a member of Angel Olsen’s band. She’s most known, though, for being the front of Mount Moriah. In nearly every story that’s written about the band or about her, there’s a comparison to a young Dolly Parton. McEntire’s songwriting is great, but the comparison is mostly about her voice. That’s to say that her voice is big and muscle-bound when she needs it to be, but soft and supple at other times. While she’s the undisputed star of the show, the guitar work of Jenks Miller shouldn’t go unrecognized. He’s recorded a bunch of stuff under his own name and with the band Horseback, but this is his meal ticket.
I had never actually seen Mount Moriah before, so it was a real treat. And they were fantastic. They were scheduled to play for 50 minutes, but they left about 10 minutes on the clock.

Cass McCombs Band

Next was the Cass McCombs Band. The alt-country/alt-rocker from San Francisco has been around since the early 2000s and has put out a bunch of records since then. He’s sort of a big name, and he’s shared the stage with some enormous names, but I had never listened to anything by Cass McCombs. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know any of his songs, but the band played well. The only song I recognized was their variation on the traditional folk song “Cuckoo”. By the end of the set, I was starting to fade, and I wondered if I was even going to make it to the end of the Angel Olsen set.

Angel Olsen

Finally, at 8:00, the finale of the festival was the much-anticipated set by Angel Olsen. I’m a really big fan, and I had only seen her once before. That was at the 2013 Hopscotch festival, where she played a mesmerizing solo set. I must say that even though I love the newest album, my first impression of it was that it’s too polished. Seems like she’s trying hard to cross over to mainstream. Maybe she will. I thought the same thing of the sound and presentation of her set last night. It was really big. Granted, it was in the big amphitheatre, but I still prefer for the sound to be less big and more like an intimate show. That said, it was a great set with a mixture of older and new stuff. There were even a couple of brand new songs. Just as she was the time I saw her before, she was a little bit giggly and a little chatty. I like that. It’s real. It’s more “real” than the big stage production values. I won’t say that I was disappointed, but it didn’t quite meet my very high expectations. Of course my patience may have been tested because I was very tired after a long week of moving from Greensboro to Durham, then immediately heading out the door for Hopscotch.

I had a great time at the festival, but I sort of wish they hadn’t added that fourth night of shows. Although I went to bed early last night and had absolutely nowhere I needed to be today, I’m still completely wiped out.


There’s a new Angel Olsen record on the way!

Angel Olsen

A few days ago, Stereogum told us that there’s a new Angel Olsen record coming out sometime this year, and that makes us very happy.

If you’ve followed this blog, or if you’ve ever talked to me in real life, you know that I’m a huge fan of Angel Olsen. Her 2014 sophomore album Burn Your Fire For No Witness was my #4 record of that year, and her performance at the 2013 Hopscotch Music Festival was one of my favorite things from that year’s festival, and remains in my top 5 things that I’ve ever seen at Hopscotch.

Also, just in case you’ve missed it, here’s the video that I made at that year’s festival. My favourite song of hers: “Creator, Destroyer”. The video was made with a point-and-shoot digital camera, and there’s a tiny bit of shake, but I’m still quite proud of it:

As much as I love that song, it’s not why we’re here tonight.

Since all of this, Ms. Olsen has moved from St. Louis to Chicago, and then to Asheville, North Carolina. So she’s sort of a “local girl” now.

Like a lot of the women that I write about, her last album was fiercely personal, and like a lot of my favorite female artists (read: Basia Bulat), her last record was also a bit of a departure from her norm. Whereas her previous releases had been more on the “folk” side of things and had been more or less “solo” endeavors, Burn Your Fire For No Witness was a bit closer to “rock” and featured a full band. And I absolutely loved it.

I’ve been checking her site and her social media religiously for updates, and there hasn’t been much. Almost out of nowhere the other day, Stereogum announced that there would be a new Angel Olsen record this year, and they released the following teaser for the song, which, as far as we know, is called “Intern”:

Olsen directed this video herself, and with her tinsel hair, the wind machine, the focus shifts, and her headset, it looks a bit like a Björk video. And that’s totally okay with us. A lot of people are likening it to Twin Peaks. A lot of people are saying that it’s reminiscent of late 1990s nonchalantly sexy music videos from “solo” artists like Sarah McLachlan. A lot of people are saying that this video is an open-handed hit to the face of the music industry and the pressure it puts on female artists to package themselves as sex. I don’t know about all of that stuff, but we sure do like this.

It’s pretty clear that with the color bars and the abrupt stop and all, the video and the song are cut short in this teaser, but we really like what we’re hearing. We have no idea whether this will be another rock record like Burn Your Fire For No Witness was, another folky record like her other releases were, something in between, or something totally different. We’re guessing that whichever way it goes, we’re going to like the new record quite a bit. Especially since it came out of nowhere.

The only thing we know at this point is that the forthcoming record will be called My Woman. It’ll be out sometime in 2016 via a href=http://jagjaguwar.com/”>Jagjaguwar. Neither the label nor her website has details of the release, but we’ll be waiting patiently.


Our Favorite Albums of 2014 — the top five

All week long, I’ve been sharing my year-end list of my favorite new release albums of 2014.

In case you’ve missed anything, please visit these posts:

Counting down from 41 to 31
From 30 to 21
From 20 to 11
From 10 to 6

I’m finally down to the top five, so here we go:

Alvvays — Alvvays

5)Alvvays — Alvvays The fuzzy jangle-pop/c-86 revivalists from Toronto are one of the great success stories of the year. It’s not often the case that a debut record is highly anticipated, but their self-titled long player was one of the most anticipated records of the year. They first released two singles early in the year — “Adult Diversion” and the impossibly catchy “Archie, Marry Me”– which had everybody on the edge of their collective seat waiting for the self-titled debut, which was finally released on July 22 via Polyvinyl Records in the US. It’s a fantastic record that’s impossible to listen to only once, and it’s pretty easy to listen to the amazing single “Archie, Marry Me”, with its enormous hooks, at least four times in a row.
There’s a pretty cool story behind the band of kids in their late twenties. The girls — Molly Rankin (vocals/guitar) and Kerri MacLellan (keyboards)– grew up as best friends and next door neighbours in a very small town on Cape Breton Island. Rankin is the daughter of the late John Morris Rankin of the famous Rankin Family band. The boys in Alvvays — Alec O’Hanley (guitar), Brian Murphy(bass), and Phil MacIsaac (drums) — all grew up in Charlottetown, PEI, and they’ve been friends since they were in diapers. So they’re a very tight band on the stage as well as off it.
The staggering debut album, which is full of bouncy, shimmery, warm songs was written in the winter and recorded in Chad VanGaalen’s studios in Calgary. Click on the album artwork above to go to the Polyvinyl Records web store for US listeners.
Just before the album was released, the band stepped into CBC Studio Q for a visit, where they performed a few songs. Here they are playing “Archie, Marry Me”. I think it’s better than the album version and better than the official music video

Also, if you have time, I suggest watching the interview Molly Rankin does with CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi. It’s a good interview, and she comes off as humble and charming and interesting. Watch that here.

Angel Olsen — Burn Your Fire For No Witness

4)Angel Olsen — Burn Your Fire For No Witness This is the second studio album from the indie folk/indie rock singer/songwriter. She grew up all over the midwest and recently moved to Asheville, North Carolina. Sometimes, she’s mentioned in the same breath as Sharon Van Etten, whose 2014 album Are We There was the biggest disappointment of the year for me. I think at this point, Angel Olsen is moving forward with big strides in her career while Sharon Van Etten is treading water.
I was a bit late to the boat on Angel Olsen, so I didn’t know about her 2012 album Half Way Home until she was announced as one of the bands at the 2013 Hopscotch Music Festival last September in Raleigh. I acquainted myself with that album and fell in love with her 2011 EP Strange Cacti. I was especially drawn to her song “Creator, Destroyer”, and seeing her perform that song at Hopscotch was one of the highlights of the festival for me. It’s actually one of the best things I’ve ever seen. Like a blind squirrel finding a nut, I serendipitously chose the right moment to fire up my camera, and ended up with this:

When the new album was announced, I naturally pre-ordered a physical copy and waited with bated breath. I got it a few days ahead of the February 18 street date, and I was quite thrilled with it. Listening to this new album, which is by all accounts, her most personal, feels less like listening to an album and more like talking with an old friend. I don’t think anyone could write the wonderful song “Hi Five” as a non-autobiographical thing. This is straight from the heart, and you can feel her pain:

Now we don’t have to take it too extreme
We’ll keep our hands, our legs, even our lips apart
But I’m giving you my heart, my heart
Are you giving me your heart?
Are you lonely too? Are you lonely too?
High five! So am I!

And while most of the songs stick to the tried-and-true formula of focusing primarily on her folk-oriented acoustic guitar and strong but gentle vocals, there are a couple of rock-oriented “full band” songs with electric guitar and full drum kit and loud singing and all that.

This is an album that’s ended up in the high end of a lot of year-end lists, and it looks like there should be plenty more from Ms. Olsen. I saw a list somewhere that included an auxiliary list of the ten best reasons to listen to an album all the way through. Of course that list was made up entirely of album-closing songs. The final song on Burn Your Fire… –“Windows”– was on that list, and I have to agree that it’s as good of an album-closing song as I’ve ever heard. The thing is, there isn’t any filler on this record. There’s a standard practice of opening an album with one of the singles, then putting the next strongest song as the first song on side B and another very strong song to close the album. This album has eleven songs, and all of them are strong. Some are folky, some are rocky, some are a mix. “Windows” starts folky, but gets just a bit rocky by the end. I really love it, and while I love all of the official music videos from this album, and while you should watch “Forgiven/Forgotten”, and the aforementioned “Hi Five”, it’s really all about “Windows”. I don’t really understand what’s going on, but even when her face has been smeared with Vaseline, Angel Olsen is really beautiful. And she looks fantastic in that Elizabethan costume

Don’t forget to click on the album artwork above to go to the Jagjaguwar web store where you can buy the album in your choice of formats.

Mogwai — Rave Tapes

3)Mogwai — Rave Tapes This is the eighth proper album by the Glaswegian post-rock band. Over the last few years, they’ve started to let some electronic stuff creep into their music, and while I didn’t really like it at first, I’ve grown accustomed to it. This album came out in January via Sub Pop in North America and the band’s own Rock Action Records in the UK/rest of world. Although I didn’t spring for it, I was awfully tempted to buy Sub Pop’s deluxe box vinyl set on pre-order. Instead, I waited for the street date and bought a lossless digital download. Which format I own isn’t really the point, though. This is a magnificent album. I spent most of the year “liking it a lot”, but as November ended and December started to wind down, I started spending more and more time getting this list together. As I was doing that, I found myself coming back to Rave Tapes over and over again. Sure, I liked it a lot earlier in the year. I “love” it now.
You may recall that last year, I sort of bent my own rule by allowing something that wasn’t really a “proper album” into my year-end list. Mogwai did the soundtrack for the French teevee show “Les Revenants”, and I loved the music (and the show) so much that I slotted it in at #24 in last year’s year-end list. I only slotted it so low because it wasn’t a proper album. Three or four years ago, I would have hated the fact that they’ve added some electronic bits and even some vocals into their sound, but I’m totally fine with what they’re doing. And I hope they keep doing it.

Click the album artwork above to go to the Sub Pop web shop (North American listeners). Everyone else go to the Mogwai official site.

Also, check out this video of them performing “Remurdered” at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark.

Lightfoils — Hierarchy

2)Lightfoils — Hierarchy This was released in July by Saint Marie Records (this makes seven of their albums in my countdown) and it may be the first real album by this Chicago shoegaze band, but they’ve been around for a while. They formed in 2010, and three of the members were in the now defunct Chicago shoegaze/dream pop band Airiel. Cory Osborne, who plays bass for Lightfoils, used to be in Airiel, and is also currently in the Chicago shoegaze band Panda Riot. Panda Riot, by the way, made my thirteenth favorite album of 2013 with Northern Automatic Music.

In September, I was lucky enough to have the chance to see Lightfoils play a very small and very free show in Charlotte, which is only about a 90 minute drive for me. I also used the occasion to catch up with an old friend, and to visit one of my favorite breweries, and pick up a few packs of my favorite beer, which is very hard to get my hands on around here. So it was a very, very good visit to Charlotte. The show was very good, and apparently, the guys from Ringo Deathstarr encouraged them to book a show at that venue. I hated the venue but loved the show. Afterwards, I took some time to hang out with the guys, and they were some of the nicest people I’ve met. You never know what you’re going to get in that type situation (band on the road, poorly attended show, hundreds of miles to drive to the next show the following night, etc), but it was great hanging out with them. The album was already secured in my top five, so the fact that they were awesome to hang out with didn’t really have anything to do with it, but if they had been dicks (read: Mark Kozelek), I certainly would have ranked the album lower.

In late October, the band announced that singer Jane Zabeth was leaving the band. Her angelic voice is a big part of what makes the band so appealing, and I don’t know what’s next for the band, but I really hope that they find a way to continue on with a different singer.

Click on the album artwork above to go back to the Saint Marie web store, where you should already have a bunch of stuff in your cart. This one isn’t available on vinyl, but get a copy of the CD. Also, enjoy this blistering song. Play it really loud.

The Casket Girls — True Love Kills The Fairy Tale

1)The Casket Girls — True Love Kills The Fairy Tale This is the sophomore album from the indie pop/dark pop/synth pop band from Savannah, Georgia. The band is made up of sisters Elsa and Phaedra Green along with multi-instrumentalist Ryan Graveface, who is the founder of Graveface Records and a member of several bands. He discovered the girls one day “playing autoharp and singing weird songs under a tree”. He asked them to form a band with him, and here we are. The name “Casket Girls” is a reference to the types of poor French girls who were put on boats in the first decade of the 18th century and shipped to French colonial settlements in America — the areas that are now Mobile, Alabama; Biloxi, Mississippi; and New Orleans– for the purposes of marriage. They were, in essence, mail-order brides. They arrived in this country with a small suitcase — a casquette— containing everything that they owned.
I was late to the Casket Girls boat, and I didn’t know about their fantastic 2012 album Sleepwalking until sometime in 2013, but that album certainly would have been in the top ten had I known about it. There are some bizarre stories about how the new record was made, and even if they were on a bunch of acid or in the middle of conducting a séance or just plain “weird”, they made a fantastic record. Every time I listen to this album, I repeat it at least once. And I listen to this album really frequently. Although there’s a lot of dingy, dirty, fuzzy, shoegazey aspects, there’s also a bunch of really rhythmic, dance-y stuff. It fits together nicely.
Although I’ve had a few opportunities, I’ve never seen Casket Girls live. From what I’ve read, it’s a good thing: apparently, they sound much better on their records than they do live. Based on the videos that I’ve seen, I understand why people would say that they’re disappointing as a live act. My experience, though, is purely with the studio albums and a Daytrotter session from this year that’s sort of indicative of the way they are live.
This list isn’t about live performance, though. This is about albums. Between what the girls did in the studio and what Graveface did in the production room, True Love is a really phenomenal record regardless of what they sound like live.
This record is, I think, better than their first, and I hope they continue to put out great records. I also hope they find a way to be better as a live act.

Click on the album artwork above to go to the Graveface Records web store, where you’ll have to scroll down a bit.
Also, enjoy this standout song:

That’s it. Later on, I’ll put it all together in a compiled list. I might, at some point, highlight some really good EPs from this year, or some really good concert experiences from this year, or some of the albums that didn’t quite make the cut, or some of the albums that disappointed me.


09.24.2014 — “Carriages” by Tiny Ruins

Hollie Fullbrook (Tiny Ruins)

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Carriages” by Tiny Ruins (2014, from the album Brightly Painted One).

Tiny Ruins is an indie-folk outfit based in Aukland, New Zealand. The band is also the stage name of Hollie Fullbrook, who was born in Bristol, England in 1985. She learned to play cello at a young age, and her family moved from England to New Zealand when she was 10. She taught herself to play guitar and has been making music under the Tiny Ruins moniker since about 2007. Brightly Painted One is the second album, following the 2011 album Some Were Meant for Sea.

Tiny Ruins has shared stages with such impressive company as Joanna Newsome, Beach House, Fleet Foxes, Father John Misty, and Calexico. This autumn, Tiny Ruins will add to that list by going on a North American tour as the support for Sharon Van Etten.

I had never heard of Tiny Ruins until I purchased my Sharon Van Etten tickets the other day, and although I can’t find the link, I read an article somewhere in which Sharon Van Etten was absolutely raving about Tiny Ruins. When I gave a listen for myself, I was almost instantly reminded of Angel Olsen.

As you might be able to guess, anything that has Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen as reference points is pretty much right up my alley. Tonight’s song is a great example of why those reference points are appropriate.

“Carriages” by Tiny Ruins

There’s some delicate guitar work and Fullbrook’s vocals are soft and lovely. Right in the middle of the song, in the bridge to the third verse, there’s a section of “wooooooo-ooo-ooo-ooooh” stuff that knocked me out the first time I heard it. And the more I listen to it, the more I like it.

There’s an official video for the song, but it’s really, really weird. I don’t even want to provide a link, let alone embed the video here. You know how to use YouTube. Find it yourself if you’re so inclined. Instead of the “official video”, I’ll encourage you to watch this live performance of the song:

The physical copies of this album are almost prohibitively expensive, but you can purchase a legal download from Amazon here, or eMusic here. I highly recommend getting this record.

If you live in North America, you should also buy tickets for the SVE/Tiny Ruins show for when it passes through your town.


02.07.2014 — “White Fire” by Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen at Hopscotch

If you only listen to one song today, make it “White Fire” by Angel Olsen (2014, from the forthcoming album Burn Your Fire For No Witness).

If you’ve talked to me about music in the last year or so, and you’ve asked me what I’m into these days, I’ve listed Angel Olsen, and I’ve probably mentioned her name with some enthusiasm. If you asked me to name my favorite things about the 2013 Hopscotch Music Festival, I would have responded very enthusiastically “Angel Olsen!!!”. In fact, seeing her play “Creator, Destroyer” was the absolute highlight of the festival for me. It kind of knocked me out. Here’s the video that I made of that:

I don’t make a habit of writing about a band or singer that I’ve already written about, especially if it’s been very recent. It’s not that I need an excuse to write about her again, but her forthcoming album Burn Your Fire For No Witness is rapidly approaching its release date, and that’s a perfect excuse.

The new album is her second proper album, and it’s the first time that she’s worked with a full band. While her previous White Cacti EP and Half Way Home album are undeniably “indie-folk” records with heavy country influence, this new record shows a little bit of rock influence as well. Just a little. Today’s song is one of about four from the album that go back to Angel Olsen basics. Angel and her guitar.

The new album comes out on February 18, but anyone who pre-ordered a physical copy has had a digital copy of it for a few weeks now. I’ve been listening to the new record a lot, and I’m fairly sure that I’ll end up placing it in the top ten of my 2014 year-end list. Over the last couple of weeks, Jagjaguwar Records has been making a few of the songs publicly available to stream via Soundcloud. Today, they released “White Fire” to the public.

This is that song.

“White Fire” by Angel Olsen

I’m a really big fan of the waltz-like 3/4 timing. But while we usually associate waltzes with peppy, upbeat stuff, this is a dark, sad number. The song opens with the lyric:

Everything is tragic
It all just falls apart

It’s filled with lines like that, but at the end, there’s the “don’t let it get you down” tone which alludes to the album title:

If you’ve still some light in you then go before it’s done
Burn your fire for no witness
It’s the only way it’s done
Fierce and light and young
Fierce and light and young
Hit the ground and run

In other words: even if nobody’s around to appreciate it, keep doing your awesome thing.

Indeed, Angel Olsen. Indeed.

I do like the full band songs, including the rock-y “Forgiven/Forgotten”, but I much prefer the rawness and emotional ferocity of the stripped down ones like this, and the album-opening “Unfucktheworld”.

Pre-order the album now and you should get an immediate digital download.

Make sure you catch Angel Olsen when she plays in your town. She’s currently at the start of a brief US tour, which will be followed by 14 UK/European dates jam-packed into a fortnight in late March/early April. She’ll follow that with another (mostly east coast) US tour which will bring her to Chapel Hill in May. I’ll be there.


01.28.2014 — “Blood Song” by Jess Williamson

Jess Williamson

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Blood Song” by Jess Williamson (2014, from the album Native State).
Jess Williamson is a folk singer/songwriter from Austin (by way of Dallas), Texas. Her debut album Native State was released today via Brutal Honest Records. It actually looks like a self-release. It looks like this is the only thing on that “label”. There’s 300 copies of the vinyl, and the cool thing about it is that it’s on “Texas Stage Flag tri-color” vinyl.

I know very little about this young woman, and I learned most of it from the press release. She’s from Dallas, and after she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas, she headed to New York to start working towards an MFA in photography. After realizing that the amount of debt she would accrue would preclude her from being able to be a touring musician, she abandoned her studies and moved back to the Lone Star State. This album has been something like 18 months in the making.

I’ve heard a tiny bit of advance buzz about this album, and when I finally heard it today, I was pretty impressed.

I don’t know who her backing band is, but this record is highlighted by dobro, banjo, and cello. Her voice reminds me a little bit of some of the early Cat Power stuff. Thematically, the songs on this album are about pain. Heartbreak. Healing.

While many of the other songs on this album rely on the banjo, this one is centered around the lovely twang of the dobro.

“Blood Song” by Jess Williamson

It’s about some things that show up in a lot of the songs that I feature on this blog. Falling out of love. Road trips. Frustration.

It’s achingly beautiful, and I can’t get enough of it.

It looks like Jess Williamson will be one of the support acts when the lovely and amazing Angel Olsen makes a stop in Austin on February 25. That should be quite a thrill for Williamson, and quite a treat for the audience. By the way, Angel Olsen’s new record Burn Your Fire For No Witness, will be out on February 18, and if you pre-order a physical copy, you’ll get an immediate download. Do it.

The Angel Olsen record has already pretty much secured a spot in the top half of my year-end list. This Jess Williamson record might find its way there, too.


Recapping Hopscotch13 Day One

Angel Olsen

Now that I’m back from Hopscotch and I’ve had at least part of one day to recover, it’s time to catch you guys up.

Thursday was a long day for me. I worked from 7am to 5pm, then left directly from work. After chilling at the hotel for a bit, I headed downtown.

The first thing on my agenda was the Durham ambient rock band Ama Divers. I’ve never seen them before, and I only had time to watch the first 20 minutes of their set. It was great, but I really needed to head over to where Angel Olsen was playing. After all, she was the artist I was most looking forward to seeing on the first night.

I got to the venue, a seated theater, a little bit early and watched the last couple of songs of Nathan Bowles’ set. I don’t know anything about him, and while I didn’t dislike his stuff, I was there for one reason.

I had never seen Angel Olsen before, but her 2011 EP Strange Cacti has been in very heavy rotation around my house for a while now. If you’ve been around these parts before, you’ve probably noticed me mention her before a few times. Please see the post I wrote back in July.

Apparently, she usually plays with a full band behind her, but at Hopscotch, it was just her and her guitar. I probably prefer it that way. The sound in the venue was a little bit “not right”. The room is maybe too big. And I really think there needed to be the sound of beer bottles tipping over. We didnt’ get that. She was amazing, and my little preferences for a more “intimate” sound notwithstanding, it was a mesmerizing set. Maybe I was just mesmerized by her looks and her charm. She bantered quite a bit, talking quite a lot about food.

I wasn’t able to get any high quality photos, but a got a good (but slightly shaky) video of her playing my favorite song of hers: “Creator, Destroyer”, which includes a tiny bit of insight about who the song was written about.

Sorry for all the movement and all that, but I’m still happy with it.

After I left her set with a smile on my face, I headed over to where Greensboro shoegaze band Eros and the Eschaton was playing. They live in my town, and they play here pretty frequently, but I still had never seen them before. I got to Slim’s while they were about halfway through their set, and the venue is one of those really narrow, long spaces. I couldn’t see a thing, but they sounded great.

Down the street I went from Slim’s to Berkeley. This would be a frequent trip. Between those two places is where I spend most of my time. The next band on my agenda was Company (or Co.). I meant to write about them, but I don’t think I ever did. I enjoyed their set more than I thought I would.

I made the long walk to Five Star to see Water Liars, and they surprised me with how noisy they were. I was familiar with the folky tunes that they do, but not the louder ones. I enjoyed the set, and stayed for the whole thing.

After that, there was some deciding to do. I could have stayed put at Five Star and seen The Shilohs. I have friends who were there and they said it was a great set. I tried to do something different, and I went back down to Slim’s to see blues/avant rock band Jonathan Kane’s February. While drummer Jonathan Kane was really something to behold, the band’s traditional approach to heavy, repetitive blues riffs, with all three guitars doing the exact same thing left me utterly bored. I got out of there about three songs in and called it a night.

I went into Thursday night with eight bands on my “in a perfect world” scenario. I saw five of them, and added Jonathan Kane’s February on a whim.

I really was hoping to be able to see Grouper, and she was playing directly after Angel Olsen in the same venue. It would have been really easy to just stay put, but I was seriously afraid that I would fall asleep if I stayed for her set. Plus there were all those other bands to see, and a short time to see them.

As I hoped, Angel Olsen was the highlight of the night and one of my highlights of the entire festival.

Something that had not been on my radar that night was Merzbow. The Japanese abstract noise-rock legend. I’d never heard any of his music, and for some reason, I just decided against giving him a shot. The word on the street the next day was that he played a mind-blowing set. The word on the street was also that he was going to end up making guest appearances with other bands throughout the weekend. I knew I would eventually see him. And I barely did. That’ll be part of tomorrow’s “Day Two” update.” Tune in this time tomorrow night for that update.


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