Angel Olsen – All Mirrors

  • Released: 4th October 2019
  • Length: 48:33
  • Label: Jagjaguwar
  • Metacritic Score: 89/100
  • Peak UK Chart Position: #28
  • For Fans Of: Broadcast, Anna von Hausswulff

What The Critics Said:

It’s worth the investment; the emotion’s as visceral as it is complex, and it ranks among the best sounding records this year, deserving to be cranked on a good sound system — an album to spend time with, to fall into, to shut up and let yourself be kissed by.

Rolling Stone

What the Artist Said:

“I spent a lot of time feeling really bitter and disappointed about the way people in my life saw me or interpreted me … for me, All Mirrors is about letting go of toxic relationships, and also forgiving yourself for making mistakes, and not expecting that everyone is measuring you the way you’re measuring yourself. And if some people are, do you really need them around?”

Angel Olsen is an American singer-songwriter and consistent recipient of critical acclaim since her debut album Burn Your Fire For No Witness, released in 2012. Her path to commercial exposure was found through a common stylistic evolution – starting from sparse acoustic folk in her early releases, her sound later materialised into punchy, powerful rock in 2016’s MY WOMAN. Olsen’s sound is notable for distinctive vocal discordance and emotionally grabbing lyrics, with romance, love and loss featuring as predominant themes in her output.

As far as development – or departure – of sound, All Mirrors is nearly a total ditching of the guitar-heavy roots of her previous albums. Replacing Olsen’s vocals as the fundamental player in the album’s sound is an overwhelmingly mighty strings and synth section, permeating every track with an influential authority while respecting the presence of its accompanying acts. However, this is not to understate the impact of Olsen’s vocal performance. With All Mirrors, she has liberated herself from love song soothsayer to a rebellious and impassioned preacher of nostalgic loss.

It is unexplainably difficult to pin this album down to a specific genre or timeframe. While we can list the influences of Olsen’s sounds across the 2010s, All Mirrors takes a different approach to her previous efforts. This is best articulated as taking a truckload of contemporary genres, smashing them to bits, and then restructuring them into a sound free from trend, fashion or popular hangover.

I’d suggest that you imagine a studio where Patsy Cline, Broadcast, Elbow, Eurythmics, OMD, Bowie, Eno and the Everly Brothers are all seated, discussing and debating musical direction and composition. A task so pretentious and menial you might not want to bother. I wouldn’t blame you.

But, for the culturally-informed royalty who took part in this riveting thought activity and are extremely secure in their self-esteem, you might find that this array of artistry does All Mirrors and its general atmosphere some justice. However, it is still a villainous understatement of its true depth and offering.

Still, attempts to pigeonhole this album, no matter how extensive, are both utterly pointless and flagrantly dismissive of the artistic depth in process and product. What this album undeniably possesses is a raw and pure emotion – 48 minutes of conflict and catharsis, while still maintaining an ominous eeriness throughout its stay.

There are moments of dark weariness. The repeated ‘without you’ in the stunningly ethereal ‘Tonight’ is breathtakingly seductive, while ‘Endgame’ is held by a more secure backing, but still oozes an irresistible existential and emotional tiredness. Both songs showcase the versatility Olsen possesses – her voice is frail, awkwardly shaking on each note but still falling beautifully into place with every line. Tracks such as ‘Spring’ and ‘New Love Cassette’ offer a greater level of assuredness of Olsen’s romantic reflections, her outlook more hopeful and confident with every note.

However, as with her previous releases, Olsen shines when she’s let loose, when all inhibitions are thrown out the window with a destructive flourish. In the album’s opening track ‘Lark’, she finds herself reaching new heights, conquering peaks with such awe-inspiring delicacy you can’t help but allow the song to seep through every part of you.

‘Lark’ is an all-out war in musical attention-seeking from three worthy contenders: Olsen, the percussion section, and the strings. After the gentle introduction, the drums fly in with a gorgeous slam, before Olsen quickly tries to regain the limelight with addictive lyricism and despair, ‘Hiding out inside my head, it’s me again / It’s no surprise I’m on my own now’. This effort, despite its valiant and pessimistic beauty, is quickly quashed by a determined strings section, growing with commanding stature and authority the further it enters the ring.

This is basically the theme for the entire track. Less of a verse-chorus-verse-chorus affair, more of a ‘let’s just see where it goes’ clusterfuck of freely-formed noise. Beautiful freely-formed noise, mind you.

This could epitomise the album as a whole too. The tracks are less ‘songs’ but more wild and uninhibited compositions which, above all else, ultimately showcase the growth and dexterity of Olsen’s songwriting and arrangement. All Mirrors is a record of absolute confidence and flair, breaking stylistic and lyrical boundaries while maintaining an assured standard throughout. It proves Olsen to be an ever-evolving force within contemporary sounds, and with ‘part two’ of the album coming out later this year, there’s still a lot more to look forward to.

Track Listing:

  1. Lark** (6:19)
  2. All Mirrors (4:42)
  3. Too Easy (2:58)
  4. New Love Cassette (3:27)
  5. Spring* (3:23)
  6. What It Is (3:17)
  7. Impasse (4:24)
  8. Tonight* (4:39)
  9. Summer* (4:05)
  10. Endgame** (5:20)
  11. Chance** (6:00)

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