Saturday, August 31, 2013

Hopscotch Highlight: Angel Olsen

Angel Olsen will perform on Thursday, Sept. 4
at Fletcher Opera Hall
Hopscotch is a weekend filled with a diverse array of musicians, you can hop around the city to find some of the most talented DJs playing blocks away from some of the most revered indie-rock icons and singer-songwriters. It's a festival for fans of all varieties of music, which makes it easy to stick to whatever sort of genre you've got a particular hankering for. I for one like to check out a bit of everything, it makes for a truly unique festival experience that can't be reproduced, or at least hasn't thus far. I'm sure you've been able to tell that by these previous previews I've been tossing around on the blog. Sylvan Esso provides pulsating beats with folk-infused poppy vocal stylings while Morning Brigade brings a grandiose blend of folk rock. However, few artists on the Hopscotch bill contain the captivating nature of Chicago's Angel Olsen.

Olsen has been featured alongside artists like Bonnie "Prince" Billy and rather than paling in comparison to the prolific songwriter, she instead nearly stole the spotlight. Olsen's trademark warble has a way of drawing listeners in to her powerful songwriting. She made her full length debut last year with Half Way Home, an album that's filled with intensely personal tracks that are brought to the listener with the utmost trust and sincerity. With a powerful vocal presence and minimalistic acoustic backing, Olsen lays down heart wrenching tracks that delve into dark corners of her past. "I watched from far away as the ambulances came and started dressing for school," Olsen sings on the crippling "Lonely Universe." Lines like these convey the brutality and beauty in her simplistic style.

"Even if it's personal to me in my life in the moment, it's possible it can be relevant to someone else at another moment, so why hold back," Olsen told ChicagoMusic earlier this year. It displays the unabashed songwriting approach that Olsen takes, she teeters the line of comforting content and difficult material. This style places Olsen heads above the pack of standard singer-songwriters that are currently making music, combining her beautiful lyricism with her evocative vocals makes for a heart-wrenching listening experience.

Olsen's songwriting has been turning heads for years now. As previously stated she's collaborated with Will Oldham and Cairo Gang and earlier this year she signed to Jagjaguwar, bringing her contemporary blend of classic folk and country to the masses. Olsen's songs are emotional rollercoasters, her vocals range from a subtle whisper to a commanding howl, displaying rich dynamics and serving as a wonderful juxtaposition to her soft guitar playing. Olsen's music isn't something that you should just sit down and listen to as background music, it deserves your full attention and quite frankly it's difficult to not give it your all.

Olsen will be one of the standouts on Thursday night's performances, especially since she'll be playing at one of Hopscotch's most gorgeous venues at Fletcher Opera Hall. In previous years Fletcher has housed some of my favorite shows of the festival, a cross-legged viewing of Lost in the Trees, an intimate Mountain Goats show and the larger than life Matthew E. White performance. I expect Angel Olsen to be a brilliant blend of these three shows, her booming voice will surely fill the 600-capacity venue and send shivering sensations throughout the listeners in attendance. If you're looking for unique and captivating performances then look no further than this dazzling songwriter's set at this year's festival.

Angel Olsen - Tiniest Seed (Official Video) from Randy Sterling Hunter on Vimeo.

Angel Olsen will be performing at 9:30 pm on Thursday at Fletcher Opera Hall

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