Not the voice of an angel, which is not to say that Angel Olsen’s singing voice is not good, it’s just that it’s not particularly angelic. Intricate is a word I’d use in its place. And curious: she escalates through the octaves in a plaintive manner that borders on the yodel. Sometimes, Olsen works a song line out through a series of syncopated phrases that are not unlike those used by Roy Orbison, a tri-octave crooner who made his bones by charting repeatedly throughout the pre-British Wave ’60s. It’s her lo-fi guitar playing that borders on the simplistic and might cause a listener to lump Olsen in with singer-songwriter-type folksters. It’s an association I won’t rule out, but there is a lot more going on in her music than meets the eye. She is a good writer, clear and quick — not a shred of ambiguity. “Sometimes, I need you to be the one to call,” she sings, for example, in “The Waiting,” a song about a romance that simmers along dreadfully just below the boiling point.
Angel Olsen has the sound of abject loneliness down cold. If I were a music supervisor, I would be peddling her goods to avant film makers such as Jim Jarmusch or David Lynch. Why not? Other critics have invoked the name Ennio Morricone, the Italian composer who scored Sergio Leone westerns like The Good, the Band and the Ugly, when discussing Olsen. Her music feels like the kind of very creepy-cool but obscure stuff one discovers while crate-digging, albeit digging through one’s parent’s old truck-driving records from a generation ago. But there’s an update on the emotional IQ from that era she brings that’s intimidating. Olsen is scary-smart, with the kind of hipster-fueled intelligence that worries a man on a date: your usual won’t work here, it says. Step it up or step out.
Villages also performs.
Angel Olsen: Casbah, Tuesday, April 9, 8 p.m. 619-232-4355. $10 advance/$12 at the door