This October, Angel Olsen brings her countrified new/old sound to Edinburgh for the first time.
Up first, however, is Tomberlin who played a wonderful show at the Voodoo Rooms back in May. The singer-songwriter is of a piece with peers/pals Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, bringing a folkish quality to confessional indie. Often spare arrangements are enlivened by a keen eye for storytelling detail, with ‘Seventeen’ and the title track of her latest album, ‘i don’t know who needs to hear this…’, two of the best examples. How her quiet sound will fill up the Usher Hall remains to be seen…
Angel Olsen last played in Scotland on Valentine’s Day, 2020, just before the pandemic swept in. It was just at the point when the severity of Covid was starting to become apparent, giving the night a melancholic tinge despite the wonderful show she put on. Now less than three years on, we’ve got a new set of crises to deal with, and Olsen’s made a subtle transition from the art-rock of 2019’s ‘All Mirrors’ to the comparatively gentler, countrified ‘Big Time’, released earlier this year. It’s contemplative in a way we all like to think we are after such tumultuous times.
The grandeur of Usher Hall is a natural fit with any of Olsen’s stylistic guises: sleek, icy rock or multi-faceted Americana. The wide range of instruments present on ‘Big Time’ should have plenty of room to manoeuvre; across the album there are various horns and strings, as well as a range of keys like harpsichord and wurlitzer, making for the fullest sound Olsen has produced yet.
Olsen can always be counted on for a few wisecracks amongst the uniformly excellent music. Though her music is earnest, it isn’t too self-serious and the band’s playfulness on stage is a good counterpoint to occasionally austere melodies. The band were quite taken with their introduction to Buckfast last time round (though Olsen herself clearly hated it) – it’ll be nice to see if that passion is rekindled once more! But questionable tonics aside, the quality of the performance on October 22 is not in doubt.