Album reviews: William Fitzsimmons, Angel Olsen, Greg Laswell

Album reviews: William Fitzsimmons, Angel Olsen, Greg Laswell

William Fitzsimmons

Lions/Nettwerk Records

Lions is a towering achievement. A deeply personal record loaded with gravitas, the album feels like Fitzsimmons’ confessional or at the very least a reflection on life, love, death, moving on, and his relationships. From the opening strains of the gorgeous acoustic track “Well Enough,” where Fitzsimmons wonders about the mark he has left on the life of someone who is leaving his, to the chilling, ambient piano ballad “Speak,” which closes the record, the album is imbued with a deep, almost overwhelming introspection. Most of the album is made up of acoustic ditties and charming folk pop, and beautifully augmented lines like “But you took your breath from me” (“Took”) and “How long should I hold out the hope/That I’m still in your heart?” (“From You”). Fitzsimmons is fearless in peeling back the layers with a vulnerability so powerful that you can’t look away.

Angel Olsen

Burn Your Fire For No Witness/Jagjaguwar Records

Angel Olsen’s first release on Jagjaguwar is beautiful, haunting stuff. Whether she’s waxing philosophical about love lost in the acoustic opener “Unfucktheworld,” or marveling at our minuscule place in the universe on the crunchy rock track “Stars,” Olsen’s appealing vulnerability rises to the surface. Sinister stompers like “Hi-Five” hint insecurity, while on “Enemy” she matter-of-factly delivers the lines: “All the kindness that you’ve offered me/Doesn’t last/It’s just a thought I’ve had.” The tone of the album isn’t upbeat, but it stops short of being overly maudlin, and she goes from raucous (“High & Wild”) to languid (“Iota”) tracks in succession. The electric guitar ballad “White Fire” with its droning notes and Olsen’s vocals alternating between quiet and siren-like is perfect middle ground.

Greg Laswell

I Was Going To Be An Astronaut/Vanguard Records

Greg Laswell’s new album is more of a new perspective, with all but one of the songs on this album being songs he has already released. However the results of reimagining these tunes is worth checking out. Astronaut finds Laswell’s penchant for indie rock and folk pop toned down, with the majority of this record featuring just Laswell and his piano. “What a Day,” is a somber piano-led piece, while “How the Day Sounds” benefits from the addition of an acoustic guitar and subtle strings. Laswell’s plaintive vocals have a  marked effect on the album’s mood—particularly on the beautifully morose “Off I Go” and “Take Everything.” Astronaut’s title is taken from a lyric in “December,” and it captures the album’s ethereal vibe, making it an oddly appropriate soundtrack for being lost in space.