Song of the Week checks out the latest songs that we just can’t get out of our heads. Find these tracks and more on our Spotify Top Songs playlist, and for our favorite new songs from emerging artists, check out our New Sounds on Spotify playlist. This week, Angel Olsen takes us to a smoky cabaret for her expansive new track, “Nothing Free.”
“Here it is,” coos Angel Olsen to start his amazing new track “Nothing is Free.” He then describes the feeling of bursting out, of coming out of “that old cell, the one you can save” – which is, in fact, weak and raw.
But none of it comes with cathartic fanfare, loud guitars, or sweeping high notes. Instead, Olsen and his band slowly made their way through the abyss, melting like butter with every chord change. The track arrives as the first single from Olsen’s upcoming EP, Forever Means (out April 14th), which found its origins in the sessions for Olsen’s extensive 2022 album, Big Time. The all-consuming feeling of “Nothing’s Free” perfectly matches the grandeur of Big Timeand it’s fitting that the song overlaps the sessions.
But “Nothing Free” also lives in an alternate, noir-esque universe; Guided by a warm piano and a saxophone wrapped in reverb, Olsen channels an aging cabaret singer imparting his wisdom to an indifferent crowd. You’d think a chorus with the phrase “Ain’t nothing free / Like the violation of freedom” would be sung with complete abandon, and yet, he delivers these words with a quiet, jazzy lilt and a lot of weight – almost like he wanted to break. free as before, and it will not be found in him to do it again.
This emotional conflict is what drives “No Way Free.” As Olsen reminds us “I’m crushing on you like no one else,” there’s a complete and utter surrender to that simple idea. So he eschews vocals after the phrase, letting a brooding sax solo and extended instrumental outro say what he can’t. With its soulful, cinematic slow burn, “Nothing’s Free” is a beautiful reminder that a patient bloom can be as liberating as throwing everything on the table.
It’s also an example of where Olsen is headed artistically – with a sound that references similar (though less country-oriented) classic artists identified with Big Time“Nothing Free” is exciting new ground for him to showcase his intimate, catchy songwriting.
Sometimes the release will be small and solemn, and sometimes it will feel like the weight of the world will explode from you. “Nothing Free” covers both, and when he comes with the warning, “Here it is,” we, too, are ready to go out.
— Paul Ragusa