Albums Of The Week

Bittersweet charm

Angel Olsen ponders love-hate relationships, while Tomgirl shroud their album in a distinctive, moody feel

In her latest album My Woman, American singer-songwriter Angel Olsen skilfully narrates the messy and complicated business of falling in and out of love.

Olsen has a fantastic voice with a wide range and she uses it to full effect on the more reflective songs in the second half of the album, such as the 71/2-minute-long Woman. In the slow-burning ballad reminiscent of trippy, 1970s rock ballads, down to the choppy bass lines, she lays out the desperation that comes with affairs of the heart: "I'd do anything/To see it all/The way that you do/But I'd be lying."

Forlorn piano ballad Pops is another heart-wrenching rumination on a doomed relationship as she questions: "What is it my heart's made of?/Don't you know you'll never have a part?"

Tracks such as Shut Up Kiss Me and Give It Up blaze through with a grungy, pop-oriented confidence as she ponders love-hate relationships with past significant others.

Sonically, My Woman is miles ahead of the mournful folk of her early releases from six years ago and her past as a member of indiefolk stalwart Bonnie "Prince" Billy's band.

  • INDIE ROCK/FOLK ROCK

    MY WOMAN

    Angel Olsen

    Jagjaguwar

    3.5/5 stars

    GARAGE ROCK/INDIE ROCK

    TOMGIRL

    Tomgirl

    Deer Island Records/Conkrete Music

    3.5/5 stars

Closer to home, dynamic indie duo Tomgirl has been building up a buzz in the past month based on one single alone. Now that the full album is out, launched at their Mosaic Music Weekend gig at the Esplanade Recital Studio on Sunday, we can finally see that the bittersweet charm of that early single, Darker Now, is no fluke.

Singer-songwriter Cherie Ko and musician-songwriter Ted Dore are a visually stylish pair, that much we can surmise, from their carefully staged black-and-white press shots: two good-looking singers, songwriters and musicians looking uber cool in black leather jackets and oozing attitude.

The music is a pastiche of garage rock and 1960s pop, with copious amounts of reverb on the vocals and instruments that shroud the songs with a distinctive, moody feel.

Twangy, surf-guitar lines duel with shoegazey, fuzz guitar swathes on tracks such as Walk All Over Me, while Ko switches between ethereal falsetto and earnest yearning on songs such as Heartbeats.

The hooks are what draw you in, however. Ko and Dore have a ear for memorable and pleasing melodies, whether in Darker Now's rousing verse-to-chorus build-up, or their double vocals that accompany the rollicking rhythms of Bang Bang.

The 10 tracks barely cover 30 minutes and they whet the appetite for more.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2016, with the headline 'Bittersweet charm'. Print Edition | Subscribe