Angel Olsen: Half Way Home (Bathetic) 

Raw melancholy and introspection in an eerily quiet indie-Americana context? Angel Olsen is a singer-songwriter after my own heart. From Chicago, Olsen's a veteran of playing with Bonnie "Prince" Billy and The Cairo Gang, and on this, her first full-length release, she often is accompanied by guitarist Emmett Kelly.

It's a sparse, haunting and beautiful album, on which the centerpiece is the 7½-minute "Lonely Universe," an elegant dirge with tickled guitars and solemn drums. In it, lost love is equated with an apocalypse of cosmic proportions, and Olsen's rich, country-folk voice —imagine a cross between Patsy Cline and Buffy Saint-Marie—sounds both intimate and expansive as she sings, "losing your mind, it ain't half as bad as it seems."

Elsewhere, she sounds like a female Leonard Cohen, especially during the stripped-down acoustic arrangements of such tunes as "Acrobat."

She also successfully conflates slowcore with rockabilly on "Tiniest Seed," "Free" and, especially, "The Waiting," a charmingly sad rumination on "foolishly waiting" for the ideal lover. Like the best blues artists, Olsen is able to navigate the darkest passages of human emotions without slipping under. Even though she embraces elegant despondence, she retains an abiding sense of hopefulness.


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