Songwriters are Poets, Too: Angel Olsen

tumblr_n5b5cqwoxm1qcfzzvo1_1280By Maddie Farr ’18

Angel Olsen’s voice is so otherworldly gorgeous that sometimes her lyrics–which are deeply emotional and cutting–will shock the listener. Olsen will be singing softly alongside simple guitar, and then the next minute she will break you with a painful declaration of loneliness or a question: “Is that my heart there splitting open?” Her music is confessional and bold, but always with an undercurrent of quiet and desperate longing–longing for connection with a lover, or with her listener, or longing for solace. These longings and confessions spill through in her voice and her songwriting.

I associate Angel Olsen’s music most strongly with the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay (goddess), and particularly her sonnet “Night is my sister” (which can be found here), in which she describes a drowned woman washed ashore by love, dripping and scattering shells upon a careless man’s floor. What both Millay and Olsen have done in their work is to fashion themselves as proudly drowned women, shameless in their deeply and painfully felt emotions.

Whenever I listen to Angel Olsen, I find my heart rising and my skin growing warm. Her music elicits a kind of urgency, as well as a sense of being utterly grounded. Perhaps it is that Olsen gives voice to feelings, desires, and sadnesses that are often hidden, or that she presents them with such heartbreaking honesty.

So, you probably should not listen to this playlist unless you are prepared to cry.


I wish it were the same
as it is in my mind
I am lighter on my feet
when I’ve left some things behind

“Drunk and With Dreams”

Someone has got to go on believing
Someone has got to speak of a feeling
Someone has got to let down their guard
for someone
And I’ll be the one, I’ll be the one
I do not mind
and if you should touch me know that I’m made
that I’m made of fire

“Always Half Strange”

and it’s always half strange to believe in anything
halfway insane and halfway home in your arms


Are you lonely too?
Are you lonely too?
Hi-five, so am I

“Some Things Cosmic”

I want to be naked
I don’t mean my body
I don’t need my body
I’m floating away

“May As Well”

It may as well have been forgotten
Or did it simply slip your mind?
Is that my heart there splitting open?
I guess it just fell to the side

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