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Olsen's music transcends genres and generations

| Friday, Sept. 20, 2013, 7:40 a.m.
Angel Olsen performs Tuesday night at 8 at the Andy Warhol Museum. Tickets are $15, $12 for students. Call 412-237-8300 for details.
Angel Olsen performs Tuesday night at 8 at the Andy Warhol Museum. Tickets are $15, $12 for students. Call 412-237-8300 for details.

Angel Olsen has a voice that could have emerged in any generation, any decade, and she would have been a powerful, unique force.

In an era when mainstream music never has placed less value on creativity and pure ability, Olsen cuts through all of that. Will she ever play on the Grammys or in a featured television spot? Maybe not, but the first time you hear her voice, you're likely to find yourself dead in your tracks, determined to find out who is making those amazing sounds. Try to name any current pop artists who do that to you, and you'll be here all day.

Olsen has crafted her organic sound over the years, playing on the road alongside Bonnie “Prince” Billy and his crew, working on her personal, sometimes nakedly stripped-down arrangements, and figuring out a way to make heartbreak, longing, love, hope, you name it, her way of bloodletting but also ensuring that it connects with her audience. There is something about Olsen's records that grip you inside and squeeze. You just cannot be unaffected.

Debuting with her wonderful, raw “Strange Cacti” (recently re-released by Bathetic), she showed what she could do with her dexterous, full-bodied voice and simple musical arrangements. If you own a record player, get this on vinyl, sit down on a calm Saturday night, and let the sounds permeate your senses. It's the best listening experience you can have with the record.

Olsen followed up last year with the stunning “Half Way Home,” one of 2012's best records in any genre and one that showed her becoming something of an enigma. Right away, you're gripped by the incredible “Acrobat,” where her voice quivers but also explodes like it's swinging in circles, embracing dizzying motions, and coming down with the world swirling. “Lonely Universe” is cool like a summer afternoon and emotionally deep, and “The Waiting” is drop-dead timeless, like it could run over the final credits of a particularly disturbing edition of “Mad Men” with people wondering how an artist from that time period could have gone unnoticed until now.

The folks at Jagjaguwar signed Olsen for her upcoming third release, which is in the works, and the way she is progressing could remind some listeners of the path Sharon Van Etten walked. But before her next record drops, you have a chance to see Olsen hush a room Tuesday night at the Warhol. This is a special artist, a once-in-a-lifetime talent, in an intimate setting where each ghost that exists in her work will have a chance to haunt. Olsen's music could not come more highly recommended, and any chance to see her at this budding stage in her career has to be deemed a treasure of an experience.

Brian Krasman is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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