Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on the Midday Show with Cheryl Waters, is “Forgiven/Forgotten” by Angel Olsen from the 2014 album Burn Your Fire For No Witness on Jagjaguwar.
When she emerged as a member of Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s backing band the Babblers in 2010, Angel Olsen was “screaming down the throats of the front row” in fleece pajamas, but four years removed from that jarring introduction, Olsen has emerged as one of the most affecting and fascinating lo-fi songwriters currently working. Originally hailing from St. Louis, Olsen was first recognized as a guitarist and backing singer in the aforementioned Babblers and then The Cairo Gang during their time backing Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Soon after the tour behind Wolfroy Goes To Town, Olsen’s first EP and album, 2010’s Strange Cacti and 2012’s Half Way Home, respectively, showed Olsen as a songwriter of her own right whose voice was as just as powerful when not screaming. Now based in Asheville, NC, Olsen began work on her first full-band album in 2013. The result, February’s outstanding Burn Your Fire For No Witness, has more versatility and heft than any of Olsen’s previous work, as well as the frontrunner for 2014’s most quotable lyric (“Are you lonely too? Hi-five!”) Olsen could have confessed the undying love encapsulated in “Forgiven/Forgotten” classic songwriter-style with just her voice and an acoustic guitar, but since that setup doesn’t quite have the resources to convey the song’s emotional punch, she’s opted to declare her devotion with the less-traditional setup of a roaring garage quartet of rumbling bass, stinging drums, crunchy guitar, and Olsen’s unnervingly altered vocals. Although the song’s lyrics read as something desperate (“You never forgive me/a love that dies through/loving you”), Olsen’s captivating performance are filled with an infatuation that rests in its confusion. On “Forgiven/Forgotten”, Angel Olsen eschews any “confessional female singer-songwriter” trope by matching her amplified heart with her amplified guitar, because the only thing more compelling than singing “I don’t know anything/but I love you” is shouting it.
Angel Olsen will play live on KEXP on Friday, March 7 at 1:00 PM. Later that night, she’ll play a sold out show at Barboza. (Her preceding shows in Vancouver and Portland still have tickets though.) To hear about more tour dates or new music, keep up with Angel on her website and Facebook, and watch her video for “Forgiven/Forgotten” below.