A few years ago, I put together an event at a church in Texas, and Angel Olsen stole the show. (I honestly can't remember who else played.) She had this effortlessly powerful way of projecting. She also maintained an eerily stoic look on her face, which added to the otherworldly feeling of the performance. Her voice felt perfectly suited to the space, filling-up but not overwhelming the architecture. It was one of those sets that you hoped would go on for a few hours, or maybe forever.
“Intern” reminds me of that moment. Olsen moves her elastic voice in amazing ways, eliding some words, stretching others. She sings low and breathy, muscular and assured, and in an aching falsetto. The song itself, atmospheric and dark, is ostensibly about how we all have to wake up, work, go through the motions, and “be someone”—and how that work will embarrass or beat you down sooner or later. It’s also about love, because love does the same thing (and, really, same goes for life).
As Olsen puts it, “Everyone I know has got their own ideal/I just wanna be alive, make something real/Doesn’t matter who you are or what you do/Something in the work will make a fool of you.” We all do it. You daydream about running away. You daydream about the perfect comeback. You dream about something perfect in general. After she repeats a couple lines containing these kinds of sentiments—“I pick up the phone, I swear it’s the last time/Falling in love, but I swear it’s the last time”—the music becomes more abstract and swirling. You expect a climax, but the song ends with the tone of a lost television transmission. It’s the perfect way to hammer home the idea that: no, until you take your last breath, it won’t be the last time for anything.