Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
Angel Olsen returns with a dramatic, devastating new record with some unpredictable flourishes
“I don’t know if it’s something I inspire or attract, or if it’s just in the way I’m looking at my surroundings, but drama is something that surrounds my world and always has,” admits Angel Olsen, and there’s something refreshing about the acceptance of this self-analysis. When considered against the background of her music, it's illuminating – Olsen’s four LPs to date are overflowing with emotional turmoil and doomed romance, themes that might have grown tiresome were it not for her evident optimism and relentless passion.
All Mirrors retains a good amount of iconic devastation. Olsen’s timeless, musing lyrics are wise as ever, if perhaps more cynical than before. Yet there is a new, almost paradoxical, quality to the sound, as though it comes both from the past and the future. Dramatic orchestral arrangements combine with shimmering, otherworldly effects to produce an unpredictable and slightly unsettling atmosphere. Olsen’s usually warm and starkly human vocals are unfamiliar, almost alien.
The record takes its name from what Olsen sees as a life-long theme: the reflective, subjective nature of living and “how we are all mirrors to and for each other.” Opening track Lark is a steady, measured beginning to a record that is anything but – at first reminiscent of the expansive My Woman until it explodes into this new, limitless orchestral soundscape. Mid-song there's relief in a melody borrowed from How Many Disasters, an early demo which appears on Olsen's B-sides record Phases.
Tonight returns to the purity of Olsen’s vocals, quiet and tender as though whispered into the ear – although the swirling orchestral arrangement is oversweet, leaving too little to the imagination. Spring is a strange pleasure, simultaneously familiar and new, all the pouring poeticism undercut by barrelling, otherworldly drums and synths.
The record is closed by the heroic, symphony-like Chance. The track is dotted with lyrics quoted from previous records – 'What is it you think I need? / I wish I could believe' – and whether intentional or not, it seems to bring all of her music, all of her misery, to a catastrophic head.
Listen to: Lark, Spring, Chance