Angel Olsen has spent the last decade gradually rising to the forefront of the indie music world, and as she increases in popularity, she also continues to progress creatively at every turn; no two Angel Olsen albums are alike, and no move she ever makes is predictable. That's what makes it so exciting to look back on her 2012 debut album Half Way Home, released ten years ago today (9/4), an album that was full of promise but far from the version of Angel Olsen that the world knows today.
Before releasing Half Way Home, Angel had been playing as a member of Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's band, and in 2010 she released the Strange Cacti EP, which got a wider release in 2011 on Bathetic Records, a small label that had also put out an early Cloud Nothings cassette, as well as releases by experimental bands like Wet Hair and Bitchin Bajas. That same label then issued her debut full-length Half Way Home in 2012. At this point in her career, you could accurately refer to Angel Olsen as a folk singer. On the entirely self-produced Strange Cacti, she delivered her songs with nothing more than her own voice and acoustic guitar. On Half Way Home, which Angel co-produced with fellow Bonnie 'Prince' Billy band member Emmett Kelly, her songs were sometimes augmented by some light drums and bass, but many were just as bare-bones as her EP. Angel was far from the only contemporary musician pulling from the intimate, cultishly-loved folk singers of roughly half a century ago, but she stood out from other likeminded artists with a high and lonesome warble that sounded something like Roy Orbison meets Connie Converse. It was clear from her voice alone that Angel Olsen wasn't just another Vashti Bunyan or Nick Drake devotee. There was something extra special about her music, which wouldn't remain a secret for long.