Angel Olsen – All Mirrors
Since her debut album Half Way Home Angel Olsen has employed precise lyricism and a chameleon sound. Olsen’s sophomore record Burn Your Fire for No Witnesses featured punchy romantic sentiment wrapped in a folk-country bow. Olsen’s third studio album My Woman took a turn towards pop and rock, incorporating synths into her sound for the first time. On Olsen’s newest release All Mirrors, the singer-songwriter adds cinematic strings to her sonic lexicon, a risk that elevates her sound to something both inspired and unique.
The opening track, “Lark,” sprawls over six minutes and several distinct musical movements, from the garbled tune-up at the start to the banging last moments. Olsen told Instagram that the song took years to write and is assembled from pieces written over time. “Lark” escalates with Olsen’s full vocals, steady drums growing ever louder, and dynamic string arrangements. The track oscillates between climatic moments and lulls; it sets a promising precedent for the rest of the album.
Most of the tracks on All Mirrors feature breathtaking instrumental breaks; the title track blends strings, synths, and bass for a gothic, glossy ending instrumental. Piano-based track “Spring” ends with a wandering, melodic synth solo and features a catchy but downplayed melody and insistent drums that keep the track from trailing into dreariness. Olsen sounds like she’s singing in the same room as the listener. Drums and percussion serve a similar purpose on many of All Mirror’s songs; even the stripped-down closing-time number, “Endgame,” uses jazzy snares to move it forward. “What It Is” has a head-nodding rhythm and forward motion as other instruments join the bass and drums.
Olsen’s voice shifts into different moods seamlessly; on “Too Easy” she sings in a light falsetto, then drops to a husky low tone on the grimy follow-up track “New Love Cassette.” She sings with deceptive delicacy, saving the power in her voice for when the music calls for it. On the track “Tonight” she sounds like she has just finished crying. The lyrics are sad but restorative, both delicate and self-assured: “I like the life that I lead without you.” It makes for the album’s most powerful and vulnerable moment. Her lyrics are less surgically precise compared to her other releases; Olsen instead opts for honest, sincere questions and observations about love, heartbreak, strife, and recovery, never dipping into platitudes.
The exquisite closing song, “Chance,” brings the record to a somber, hopeful conclusion. When Olsen croons “The worst feeling I’ve ever had is gone,” the listener knows she believes it. Love finds a way when you stop searching for it and learn to be content in your own company. It’s an ending that spurs you to flip the record over and play it again.