Angel Olsen: Aisles (somethingscosmic) - review | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, May 17th, 2022  

Angel Olsen

Aisles

somethingscosmic

Aug 20, 2021 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Throughout the pandemic, songwriter Angel Olsen found solace in the seemingly strangest of places: the supermarket. By hearing classic hits of decades past over the loudspeakers, Olsen tapped into a new type of sound—straying away from somber melodies woven into past albums (notably, 2016’s My Woman and 2019’s All Mirrors). On her new EP, Aisles, she found herself reconstructing songs from artists of the 1980s. However, Olsen also took it one step further past a standard cover in a way that makes the record feel like a cohesive part of her discography.     “I wanted to record ’80s songs that I’d overheard walking the aisles at the grocery store, and I needed to laugh and have fun and be a little less serious about the recording process in general. I thought about completely changing some of the songs and turning them inside out,” Olsen said in a press statement. By making “Gloria” the first single and starting track of Aisles, Olsen succeeded at her goal of easing listeners into the record. Compared to the Laura Branigan original, Olsen’s is quite hypnotic, with a blend of synth and string instrumentals that build in intensity. “I’d heard ‘Gloria’ for the first time at a family Christmas gathering, and I was amazed at all the aunts who got up to dance. I imagined them all dancing and laughing in slow motion, and that’s when I got the idea to slow the entire song down and try it out in this way,” she said of the song.     The pacing of Aisles immediately transitions for “Eyes Without a Face.” Although layered vocals already appeared on Billy Idol’s version, Olsen intensifies the effect, creating a dream-like interpretation that feels like the perfect dance floor option. Other songs that appear on the EP include creative reinventions of Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance” and Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s “If You Leave”—which is best known for its appearance in the climatic prom scene in John Hughes’ classic film, Pretty in Pink.     A perfect choice for a closing track, Olsen ends Aisles with her take on Alphaville’s “Forever Young,” a song that, incidentally, Branigan has also covered. Olsen’s cover opens with an electronic instrumental before breaking the focus to her crystal-clear vocals. “Do you really want to live forever young?” she sings, with a tinge of darkness lurking under the song’s surface.    As someone who didn’t live through the 1980s, there were only two songs from Aisles that were instantly recognizable to this writer: “If You Leave” and “Forever Young.” That being said, Olsen makes the EP feel both familiar and brand new. The singer is keenly aware that the best cover versions are those where the artists put a distinctive spin on the song, rather than producing a straight facsimile of the original. Angel Olsen confidently accomplishes that with this thoroughly enjoyable EP. (www.angelolsen.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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