Angel Olsen occupies a very strange place in the fabric of modern pop music. Akin to her contemporaries in bands such as Alvvays and Best Coast, Olsen’s particular brand of hypnotic shoegaze-esque songs deliver on their mellow manifesto and effortlessly lull the listener into what is a very false sense of security. Unlike her contemporaries, Olsen delights in playing upon this classic trope by filling her songs with her forceful personality. In 2014 she released Burn Your Fire For No Witness; an album that quite literally stopped her critics in their tracks and emphasised Olsen’s resigned yet frantic and emotive vocals. We last caught up with her on 2016’s My Woman – an album that highlighted not only her poetic lyricism, but also demonstrated she sheer power of her compositions on tracks such as ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’. My Woman may be very much of its ilk, but if it is, it’s the best version of itself that it can be – does that make sense?

On new record Phases, we find Olsen skirting back over the last few years, carefully curating her archives to find the golden bits-and-bobs that shaped, yet did not appear, on the last two seminal albums and before. Regardless of its origins, to call Phases a b-sides collection is just plain wrong, yet to call it an album also feels wrong. What the project represents instead is an open door. Each track of Phases acts as a slither of insight into the creative process of an artist who for the past decade as been successfully building towards allowing her listeners into her creative space. If this is true, then Phases is more of an open book than any previous release. Tracks such as ‘All Right Now’ and ‘For You’ present tenderness that is rarely seen in Olsen’s back catalogue, whilst emotionally charged song ‘California’ pushes the Joan Baez-esque vibrato vocals to the limits (and manages to be more powerful and un-tethered than Baez’s entire back catalogue combined). Lo-fi song ‘May As Well’, which first appeared as a bonus track on Burn Your Fire, and seven and a half minute ballad ‘Special’, an outtake from My Woman, are very much odd bedfellows, but undoubtedly delve into two sides of the same coin.

In a sense, that’s the final takeaway from Phases. The release delivers tracks that will remain memorable and even revelatory in Olsen’s back catalogue, whilst delving into the very essence of her persona. Many of the tracks vary to such a degree that those not acquainted with Olsen would be forgiven for thinking they were not by the same artist, yet to those who appreciate her work, the artist’s strong narrative ties the collection together.