?When a SXSW artist tells you she’s trying to put you to sleep at 1 a.m., your first instinct is not to take them seriously.
?Singer-songwriter Angel Olsen started off her Tuesday night closing set at House of Vans at the Mohawk with the casual grace of a woman without a care in the world. “I’m last, so I had to try to not get drunk,” she said. “So I talked to Jesus about it.” Olsen said that The Lord gave her special, expletive-marked dispensation to go for the Miller Lite.
Warmed by the glow of last year’s acclaimed “Burn Your Fire For No Witness,” Olsen serenaded the audience with narcotic love songs (and hate songs) between off-the-cuff horsing around with her captive audience. She was alone on stage.
Songs like “I’ve seen you changing” sound like dozing off in the middle of a house fire, or like country ballads from the 1950s without the rose colored glasses. In Olsen’s twisted songwriting universe, she grinds the rose colored glasses under her heel. She croons “I love the way your body’s made” and “show me the future, tell me you’ll be there” like the daughter of Loretta Lynn and Sharon Van Etten; sometimes she belts like Wanda Jackson.
But the downtempo, lit-by-the-blood-moon pall could only engage for so long. Olsen’s noncommittal breeze-shooting made the night feel like a somewhat tedious, if lovely and intimate, exercise. When the singer on stage looks up to the sky and murmurs “What next?” away from the mic in between songs, it starts to seem like time is being filled. The charm never completely wore off (Olsen: “I’m trying to be the best band!” An audience member: “You are!”). But if you’re trying to put your audience to sleep in he wee hours, go for a lull, not a glaze.