“I can’t say that I’m sorry / When I don’t feel so wrong anymore,” begins the opening track of Angel Olsen’s sixth record. With that declaration, she’s setting the tone: it doesn’t really matter what comes next or what the reaction might be – this is her truth, and she’s finally free. Intimate, tragic and romantic, Big Time sees Olsen, whose music has always been incredibly raw and emotive, open her heart more than ever before.
The past few years have been undeniably ‘big’ for Olsen. Big Time was penned during a time of great change and emotional turmoil when, at the age of 34, Olsen came out publicly and to her family. Tragically soon after that joyful revelation, Olsen suffered the loss of her father, followed quickly by her mother. Hospice bedsides and funerals became the settings for Olsen to introduce her new partner to her family.
The pain of that period is scattered throughout Big Time, but so is the love that was felt – love for her parents, for her partner and for the freedom she gained. The record puts elation and grief side by side, speaking to a basic fact of life: that to have great love you need to accept great loss.
Following the electronic synth-pop of All Mirrors and Aisles, the new record is a stark return to the country and Americana of her earlier work. It’s sweet and direct, its arrangements rich with organ, muted percussion and pedal-steel guitar. Sonically, as well as emotionally, Big Time feels almost like coming full circle, the unmistakable, burning infatuation of Olsen’s lyrics and delivery redirected by the joy of fulfilled love. The title track, co-written with Olsen’s partner, embodies that feeling best; the easy morning spent with her love becomes a reflection of the journey: “Guess I had to be losing to get here on time… And I’m loving you big time”.
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