Best Singer-Songwriter Who Appeals to People Who Don't Like Singer-Songwriters

Angel Olsen

Critics' Picks

As a category of artist, the singer-­songwriter has earned a really bad reputation in the half century since Dylan made it a fixture in the pop world. And for the most part it's deserved—the singer-songwriter approach seems custom-made for egotistic mediocrities with pseudoprofound ideas and a keen desire to sponge up every drop of an audience's admiration all by themselves. Listeners more sensitive to these forms of self-indulgence may roll their eyes at the mere sight of those two words connected by a hyphen, but Angel Olsen makes a compelling case that it's still a worthwhile path for an artist to take. After spending some time backing Will Oldham, one of the biggest current exceptions to the singer-songwriter rule, last year Olsen released Half Way Home (Bathetic), which tops a haunting tapestry of country, folk, and pop with a voice that has the same time-­suspending power Emmylou Harris wielded back in the 70s.