SXSW Live Shot: Angel Olsen

Missouri singer matches name to venue

SXSW Live Shot: Angel Olsen
photo by Sandy Carson

Two core members of Blondie are blonds. Despite that trademark band sobriquet, I’ve never witnessed a musical act tht matched their name as perfectly as Angel Olsen playing Central Presbyterian Church Friday night.

The stone-faced Midwesterner quieted an already austere sanctuary setting with a wavering, guarded alto and sustained guitars pulled straight from the Fifties. Although she wasn't cloaked in white or toting a harp, Olsen was nothing short of angelic against this backdrop.

Leaning on the quiet songs from her brand-new, full-band debut and sophomore LP, Burn Your Fire for No Witness on Jagjaguwar, she could just as easily fire off guitar riffs that soared into the balconies. The drum snap of “Windows” cut through the church’s acoustic echo, sharp and jarring as Olsen’s warble bounced through the pews.

The singer changed hats with “High and Wild,” which touched on surf-rock sensibility, but Olsen remained demure throughout the set, never offering much glimpse beyond her otherworldly songs. As she wound down with the gentle “Tiniest Seed,” the couple in front of me rested their heads on each other, taken to another place entirely.

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