A series in Sunday Calendar about what Times writers and contributors are listening to right now...
“Half Way Home”
A few Fridays ago at the little Bootleg Theater in Silver Lake, a singer and songwriter named Angel Olsen performed to a crowded room of curious, rapt admirers. Standing before a microphone and holding an electric guitar, the St. Louis (via Chicago) singer offered work from her debut solo album, “Half Way Home,” a small, good thing that’s slowly (and after-the-fact) becoming one of my favorite records of last year. Offering perfectly crafted folk-rock songs suggesting at various times Sandy Denny, Joni Mitchell, Jeff Buckley and Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, Olsen at the Bootleg offered convincing evidence of a charismatic singer and guitarist brimming with a range of skills.
Olsen is best known as a member of singer and actor Will Oldham’s (a.k.a. Bonnie "Prince" Billy) traveling band the Cairo Gang, where her presence has offered a stunning counterpoint to his oft-subdued tones. On “Half Way Home,” she waltzes through 11 gems that highlight a minimalist guitarist with a gentle touch and a voice whose range is as wide as it is controlled. She can sing blues, as she does on “Lonely Universe,” can toss off breathy near-yodels with a grace that more popular wannabes like Lana Del Rey couldn’t embody with a dozen professional vocal coaches working weekends.