04 January 2015

The Best of 2014: Wovenhand and Angel Olsen

Intense individuals can often be a handful. Either through simply ignoring social cues or being deaf to them, they can be an eccentric bunch. Or perhaps they're tuned to a different frequency. I spent some very enjoyable time in the company of two such figures hearing such different melodies. I can't really separate Angel Olsen or Wovenhand into best or second best. For me, they're both tied as the best of 2014. Wovenhand - still a force of nature as ever - is a major contender for the top of the list any year they release music, but on this round it was a particularly fierce showing. I think Refractory Obdurate is the best record they've released. In short, I was quite impressed by how much it rocked. The menacing vocals are there, but powered by an unstoppable passion. It's one of the most thrilling rides of 2014. On the subtler but no less intense side is Angel Olsen with Burn Your Fire for No Witness. Intensity of lyrics energized by haunted singing - see the excellent "White Fire" - mixed with a longing and devastation of the truly lovelorn - see "Stars" and "Windows". The first side features three songs that rock out triumphantly though sardonically before settling in for the long, dark night. The haunted, intensely introverted spirit of her earlier album Half Way Home is present here on the second side. Like Wovenhand, it's shocking how consistent in tone and ferocity but excellent in variety is the album. One leaves refreshed by the passion and beauty of either record. Devoted to one's vision and experienced in its execution, I can't think of two other more thrilling records.

Also enjoyable were the new albums from Pallbearer and Artificial Brain.

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