Last year’s Big Time brought Angel Olsen to a deeper, truer sense of self than ever before. Borne from the twin stars of grief and love, the album delivered a beautiful sense of certainty, the sure-footed sound of an artist fully, finally at home with herself. But within that wisdom comes the realization that there is no finish line, no destination or static end point to life while you’re living it, and Forever Means collects songs from the Big Time sessions that hold this common theme. They are, in Olsen’s words, “in search of something else.”
“I was somewhere traveling,” says Olsen, “stopped for a few days and wandering the city, and I was thinking ‘what does ‘forever’ really mean? What are the things I’m seeking in friendship or love, and how can ‘forever’ be attainable if we’re always changing?’” Sitting with the reality of that entropy, Olsen realized “maybe the secret to ongoing love is to embrace change as part of love itself, that forever must have something to do with playing, looking, constantly searching things out for yourself, never letting yourself think you’re finished learning or exploring.”
“‘Forever’”, says Olsen, “remains curious while trying also to be kind and honest.” And so it is with opener “Nothing’s Free”, a song that is, according to Olsen, “about that point when self-denial breaks, and you notice how long you’ve been restraining who you are.” It is as hypnotic and haunting as anything Olsen has ever written, backed by a sax and organ pairing that feel wholly new to her canon. “Holding On” stretches that endless curiosity even further, as Olsen leans into a song that is “rare in my music, not meant for singing, more for getting lost in.”
All this packs into the four precious songs that comprise Forever Means, songs from Olsen’s roads traveled and the ones ahead. “Nothing’s free / like breaking free” Olsen sings, comfortable with the costs of her clarity, her heart and voice fixed on the present, the future, the not-yet-known and the beautifully unknowable.
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