“You won’t always be walking the safest street/ but you can find your way home,” Angel Olsen sings in “Lonely Universe,” from her sophomore album Half Way Home. The album’s seven-and-a-half-minute centerpiece is a poignant, gut-wrenching account of losing a loved one: “Goodbye, sweet Mother Earth/ without you now, I’m a lonely universe,” she laments. But instead of just sulking, she assures others in her position that if they’ve even begun to think about the path back to normal, they’re already halfway there. Throughout these 11 tracks, Olsen attempts to make sense of the journey from lost to found, and she does it gracefully with songs about birth and death, darkness and lightness, and giving and receiving love.
Olsen, who’s spent the last couple years singing alongside Bonnie “Prince” Billy, has a soulful voice that often cracks as it slips into her higher register, setting her somewhere in the same range as ’70s folkie Judee Sill. Her songs are often founded on acoustic fingerpicking and vocals, best in delicate tracks like “Safe in the Womb” and “You Are Song.” But in “The Waiting” she channels jangly ’60s girl groups as she sings, “I need you to be the one who calls,” and it’s easy to imagine the album closer “Tiniest Seed” with a gospel choir singing behind her.