On her 2016 LP My Woman, North Carolina-based singer Angel Olsen (who plays Crescent Ballroom on February 12) sings ballads that transport you places. “Shut Up Kiss Me” seems to usher you into a crowded club, “Sister” evokes the rural landscapes of Neil Young. Olsen’s lyrics are clear and direct, and her knack for clever wordplay is at its height in her song “Never Be Mine.”
Employing addition-by-subtraction tactics, she takes a Phil Spector-style production approach and strips away layers. The result implies a Wall of Sound more than exhibits it, matching Olsen’s evocative lyrics. “Coming from an endless place,” she sings. “Heaven hits me when I see your face.”
It’s a simple lyric, but it carries you from your headphones into that “endless place.” Sometimes songs do that – mentally move you and take you on a voyage, dropping you into different worlds. And those are the kind of songs we need in 2017.
— Jason P. Woodbury
Here are four more songs that achieve that special feat:
“Being It” by Arthur Russell
On his 1986 album World of Echo, the late experimental New York composer Arthur Russell blended classical minimalism and post-punk-inflected disco, creating a singular sonic space evoking the urban lofts of New York, where punk and dance music mutated into new forms.
“Won’t You Cross Over to That Other Shore” by Daniel Bachman
Southern guitarist Daniel Bachman doesn’t need words to convey the feeling of a long journey or the deep green of Southern kudzu. This 2014 song works like an ancient spiritual, painting images without a single lyric.
“Westside Bound 3” by Saba
Chance the Rapper associate Saba paints a vivid picture of Chicago in this highlight from his Bucket List Project album. He raps about his hometown with love but no rose-colored glasses; his verses are marked by pop culture cracks and observations about how life in the ’burbs brings its own unique weirdness.
“Wuthering Heights” by Kate Bush
Inspired by Emily Brontë’s novel of the same name, a young Kate Bush creates a whole gothic landscape – replete with moors and cliffs – in this 1978 progressive pop gem.
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