Angel Olsen has come a long way. Since the days of her debut EP ‘Strange Cacti’, she has moved away from her stripped-back folk origins, widening her scope until, finally, last year’s ‘My Woman’ blew the whole thing wide open. Her new record, ‘Phases’, is really a place-holder – a collection of rarities from her career, from off-cuts at the recording sessions of ‘Strange Cacti’ through to her contribution to the political compilation record ‘Our First 100 Days’.
‘Phases’, then, should encapsulate Angel Olsen in all her guises but there isn’t much hint of the stripped back rock of her first two records, and no trace of the ’80s pop glam that made ‘My Woman’ sparkle. Instead, the record is dominated by the muted folk that started her career. The best use of this is ‘How Many Disasters’, a tender track with bruising vocals and introspective lyrics. But it’s ‘Sweet Dreams’ that is the record’s standout, as it deviates from the theme with a harder rhythm and ’60s drenched guitar work. This is where Angel Olsen is at her most dynamic, and ‘Phases’ could have used more of it to break the mould.