It’s easy to see why the indiesphere went nuts for this: “Forgiven / Forgotten” and “Hi-Five” are everything that modern indie rock is not: punchey and direct. This is true musically, in the way the drum stutters on the first beat before settling right after on a simple but effective rhythm in the choruses of “Forgiven / Forgotten” (first instance at the 0:30 mark) or the bassline that propels “Hi-Five” (easily the album’s best melody). And the band bother with nice details like vocal harmonies in the former and sprinkled bar blues-style piano in the latter. But even more obviously, it’s true lyrically. On these songs, Angel Olsen’s approach is conversational. You’re not going to find some shitty metaphor about what she really means because she says what she means and she means what she says: “I don’t know anything / But I love you / Yes, I do” and more obviously, “Are you lonely? / Are you lonely? / HIGH FIVE! / Me too,” with the whole band jumping in at the “HIGH FIVE.” Heavy bass. Heavy emotion. Heavy humour. Heavy lo-fi. A man can dig it.
The rest of this album kind of sucks, and it would almost be a shock that practically all of the reviews on the aggregate site metacritic gave this a good review if I wasn’t already aware that that’s the current trend of professional publications (and if you read the only lukewarm review without looking at the stars, by Rolling Stone‘s Mike Powell, you’d think they gave it a positive score too). None of the rest of these songs bother with the punchey-ness or directness that either of those songs had and made the critics go apeshit in the first place (both released as singles leading up to the album’s release). Elsewhere, you have a 2-minute Lisa Germano throwaway with the uncleverly titled “Unfucktheworld”; ridiculously slow and long songs that I’ve read are “atmospheric” but they’re really just ridiculously slow and long (see the 7-minute (!!!) “White Fire” and the 5-minute “Enemy”); and a bunch of songs that build slowly towards their often limp-dicked climax (only “White Fire” does it well, thanks to the piano which could fool you into thinking Nicky Hopkins came back from the dead). I mean, have you heard “Dance Slow Decades” (great title) through headphones? Loudass piano chord. Rest. Loudass drum thwack. Rest. Are you fucking kidding me? Who thought that was listenable, let alone good to listen to?