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Our music columnist gets down to the Business, Johnny Marr and Angel Olsen

This Little Underground

Photo: Jim Leatherman, License: N/A, Created: 2013:02:26 13:56:01

Jim Leatherman

Photo: Jim Leatherman, License: N/A, Created: 2013:02:26 15:15:20

Jim Leatherman

Although comprised of only two guitarists and no rhythm section, the voice and ringing songs of Massachusetts opener Meredith Sheldon (aka Alamar) fared pretty well with such a stripped setup, the rawness capturing a lot of the passion of her alt-pop songs and acting as a good foil to her clear, elegant vocals. They were occasionally flawed and a bit too wet with reverb to fully honor her melodic ability, but it was an effective enough sample for opening duties.

Nostalgia-laced indie-folk Midwesterner Angel Olsen (Nov. 30, Will’s Pub) – whose credits include the Cairo Gang and Bonnie “Prince” Billy and who will be releasing her next album on respectable indie house Jagjaguwar in February – is one of those singers who bears her vocal imperfection as a signature, a mark of character. My personal list of favorite singers abounds with unorthodox vocalists. And perhaps you’ve been able to glean this from my tastes, but perfection in music, to me, is very secondary to idea. But the best unconventional singers land in the right places. Even if they’re places never before imagined, they immediately feel right. Others, however, are acquired tastes. Perhaps Olsen is one of them. Or perhaps she’s just a little off. Right now, it’s not entirely clear whether she’s letting her freak flag fly with her oddly bent singing or just in transition with her vocal evolution.

But Olsen’s recent solo performance, which mostly stayed in a zone that flattered her singing virtues and didn’t push the acrobatics too far out there, affirmed some promising things about her. She’s a memorable songwriter and a sometimes-captivating singer who handles her own melodic sweetness with interesting subversion. And even with the above questions looming, that makes her worth watching.

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