Angel Olsen Exhales With Her Countrified New Record, Big Time
Big Time is her best record in eight years as Olsen takes a west coast Americana turn.
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On an almost weekly basis, I’m exploring new records that reflect the trying times we’re living in, but Big Time, the gorgeous new country turn from Angel Olsen, might take the cake.
Last year, Olsen found herself in a devastating situation - after gathering the courage to come out publicly and to her parents in her mid-30s, her father died three days later. Not long after, her mother followed.
While simultaneously experiencing the magic of a new relationship and dealing with a life-changing loss, Olsen decided to hit the studio a mere three weeks after her mother’s funeral. The emotional rawness found in Big Time is undeniable, and we, the listener, should thank Olsen for inviting us along for her cathartic voyage that plays out through these ten lush songs.
After the string-laden seriousness of 2019’s All Mirrors and its companion album Whole New Mess, Olsen looks to cosmic country wizard Jonathan Wilson and his Topanga Canyon studio. Inspired by Neil Young, Olsen and Wilson take an organic approach to the alt-country genre with a set full of pedal steel guitar and tacky barroom pianos, like on sweeping love song of the title track or outer atmosphere reach on the opener, “All The Good Times.”
I’ll be honest - as someone who has followed Olsen through her sterling career, All Mirrors was not my favorite work. The songs’ skeletons were good, but the synth and string section combo was too same-y throughout. Big Time retains a lot of the sweeping structures of that record, but trading Ashville for Los Angeles and bringing Wilson along for the ride makes the album shine (yes, at this point Wilson is most known for his work with Father John Misty, but his last solo record Dixie Blur is phenomenal and landed towards the top of my favorite records in 2020 and his effort with Erin Rae earlier this year is can’t miss if Big Time is your thing). Even songs that could have fit on All Mirrors like “Go Home” stick a better landing as the strings swell similar to that Dublin band’s “All I Want Is You,” or the intoxicating reflection of “Through The Fires.”
Like touring mate Sharon Van Etten’s latest record, We’ve Been Going About This All Wrong, Olsen’s Big Time is one of the more sincere records that you’ll hear this year - I haven’t enjoyed an Angel Olsen album this much since her indie-folk musings on Burn Your Fire for No Witness eight years ago.
Big Time is available now on Jagjaguwar.
Hear songs from Big Time and more on the Good Ass Songs 2022 playlist!