Angel Olsen | 02.07.13

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live angel-olsen_smFrom sweet trills to ominous tones, I love the interesting ways she manipulates her voice, and that it sometimes makes me uncomfortable.



Off Broadway, St. Louis

St. Louis was happy to welcome back natives Angel Olsen as well as Water Liars’ Justin Kinkel-Schuster and his Mississippi brother from another mother, Andrew Bryant, for a show at Off Broadway last Thursday night.

live angel-olsenOlsen reminds me of British singer Laura Marling, with a bit more of an old-timey country music flavor and a little ’50s–’60s crooner thrown in for good measure. From sweet trills to ominous tones, I love the interesting ways she manipulates her voice, and that it sometimes makes me uncomfortable. Pretty voices are great, but I appreciate voices that know how to be ugly in a gorgeous way. Olsen’s voice is full with angst and insistence and her presence onstage intensely magnetic.

Sometimes songs get lost in all the instruments and cords and pedals and amplification. Not that I don’t appreciate a full band, but it’s also so nice to have that simple connection of just vocals, guitar, and audience, a simple trifecta that almost always become the most memorable shows. I was right there with her for every word, every lyric, every twist of her voice, and every strum of her guitar. That kind of intimacy creates a trance-like feeling that I love. I was not alone. The whole of Off Broadway was transfixed and blissfully silent throughout her performance.

live water-liars

Water Liars began their set with songs from their first release, Phantom Limb, building energy with their beloved punk/alt-country-rock blend, and then eased into the wistful sweetness of what’s to come on their second release, Wyoming, due out March 5. Their newer songs and the stirring version of Spiritualized’s “Too Late” that they closed the show with had more clarity, and less feedback and reverb to muddy up all that forlorn loveliness.

Both acts know how to craft a mood. Water Liars does so with crashing drums, sweet harmonies, a well-placed twang in the gravelly texture of Kinkel-Schuster’s voice, and how the duo masterfully play with space in their compositions. Like a painter, Kinkel-Schuster knows how to balance positive and negative space within the song. “Fake Heat” exemplifies that quality, as do the lyrics which are intimately personal, yet easily relatable. | Janet Rhoads

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