Arriving a year after her Top 50 album My Woman, 2017's Phases compiles rarities spanning Angel Olsen's prior output, including early demos, stand-alone singles, and unreleased material from the My Woman recording sessions. Having made a gradual but marked shift in her sound during that time, it offers tracks representing the sparer, country-inflected lo-fi of her earliest work as well as the full-band retro rock present on My Woman. "Special" is an example of the latter, a previously unreleased track omitted from the album. A song about wanting to be someone special ("someone else"), Olsen's weary drawl hopes for something more without seeming to humor any expectation. The collection's longest entry by far at over seven minutes, it's highlighted by a seemingly sneering, almost two-minute guitar solo and band jam that closes the track. Coinciding with Donald Trump's first 100 days in office, "Fly on the Wall" was part of a Bandcamp-exclusive 100-song fundraiser for progressive causes. It's a yearning, full-band offering with psychedelic touches that reflect an emotional reality at odds with history. Elsewhere, "California" features Olsen’s highly stylized Half Way Home-era vocal delivery, with light accompaniment by guitar, bass, and drums. A 2013 B-side, it's paired with A-side "Sweet Dreams," which was never included on an album until now. They lead into a doleful solo demo of Bruce Springsteen's "Tougher Than the Rest," which was available as a limited-edition 7" with her cover of Roky Erickson’s "For You" also represented here. While likely of interest mostly to dedicated fans due to the eclectic nature of the recordings, it may also pique the curiosity of those less familiar with Olsen's growing, distinctive catalog.
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AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson
feat: Emmett Kelly