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Angel Olsen, ‘Burn Your Fire for No Witness’

Zia Anger

Angel Olsen lands a sucker punch on the closing song of her new album. “Windows” is so unexpected, both light as a feather and heavy as hell, that you immediately want to hear it again. And once more. “What’s so wrong with the light?/ Wind in your hair, sun in your eyes,” she sings amid a swell of harmonies, not as a question but rather in defense of it.

“Windows” is the showstopper on “Burn Your Fire for No Witness,” her second full-length album and first for the Jagjaguwar label. It also adds a new dimension for Olsen, a Chicago-based songwriter and singer of extraordinary range who cracks her music wide open here. It’s especially wondrous to see how she can make use of space and shadows in her voice while backed by a full band.

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That parting song sort of upends the rest of “Burn Your Fire,” an otherwise intensely focused record that sounds like it was written and sung through clenched teeth. Olsen’s last album, 2012’s “Half Way Home,” was notable for its eccentric charms, but its follow-up has a tougher edge in songs like “Forgiven /Forgotten” and “Hi-Five.”

On electric guitar Olsen spins a spectral web on “White Fire,” a seven-minute dirge she delivers as if from a séance: “If I only had an answer /  To put it all to bed /  I wish sometimes I could take back every word I’ve said.”

It’s three shades of pale but bewitching and brings to mind that earlier question: What’s so wrong with the light? (Out Tuesday)


Angel Olsen plays at the Sinclair on May 9.

James Reed can be reached at
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