Angel Olsen’s ‘All Mirrors’ is a sumptuously morphing self-reflection
'All Mirrors' - Angel Olsen
It’s fair to say that Angel Olsen has been on a musical journey throughout her career. She’s traversed the dangerous peaks of synth-pop, meandered through the possible pain of rock n roll riots, and all from her warm folk basecamp. But now, with her new album All Mirrors she may well have just reached the summit.
The record, an 11-track, 48 minute-long deeply threaded and heavily textured LP is a bold and deliberate self-reflection. A reflection naturally noted in the title but more aggressively approached in the accompanying press release. In truth, we could post that here alongside the albums multi-faceted songs and let that be that. “For me personally and objectively, this is a record about facing yourself and learning to forgive what you see.”
It’s an accurate depiction of the album. Olsen opens up on this album like no other. That vulnerability though is not just present in the lyrical content, which has always been a perfectly tended crucible of po-mo sardonicism and deep-set intellect, but in the musical growth too.
All Mirrors is a departure from Olsen’s previous work as synth-pop rocker. From the first notes of the opening track, ‘Lark’ grows a gorgeous, full, and rich sunrise of sound. Peeling away the dew of the night to reveal a crystalline vocal backed by a luscious arrangement of keys and strings, all underpinned by the aforementioned depth of language. It’s a jump into the relative unknown which has supremely benefitted Olsen’s songwriting. The help of John Congleton, Ben Babbit, and Jherek Bischoff all adding to her vision.
Olsen mused on that additional help and the benefits of her apparent loss of complete control: “I like to feel control when it comes to writing. I like to have a plan. I’m not against spontaneity — there’s plenty of spontaneity on tour, but I am not very used to completely free-flowing a record.”
“This was the first time I’ve made a record where all the pieces came in slowly, one at a time.” The album feels all the better for it. Whereas previous efforts from Olsen have felt clean and crisp – slick, this is an organic product which has been matured and honed to perfection. Blending her pop sensibilities with the beauty a full arrangement can offer is wonderfully blended on ‘Impasse’ and ‘New Love Cassette’.
It’s a rendering and smudging of lines which almost never came to fruition. Olsen had previously set out All Mirrors to be a double release, using her original demos as one album and allow the aforementioned contributors to work on the second album and deliver something more luscious.
Olsen reflects on that decision: “As I began to go further into the process with everyone I realized that I needed to separate these two records. I needed to release *All Mirrors* in its heaviest form.”
“Though I personally love how weird an idea it is to release a record of solo material at this point in my career, while working on *All Mirrors* and hearing some of the arrangements played back, it was impossible for me to deny how powerful and surprising the songs had become. The truth is that I may have never allowed this much sonic change in the first place had I not already made an account of the same songs in their purest form.”
“Making a piece of music this way has been an exercise in letting go and feeling more open with those I work with. It’s terrifying to relinquish control as an artist and a human, but it allowed me to see and believe in what collaboration can yield.”
It’s hard to disagree. While much of Olsen’s fandom was likely scooped up during her singer/songwriter, power-pop sashaying on MY WOMAN this album reflects her growth as an artist, and human, so much more clearly. This is Angel Olsen’s move from interesting act to an undeniably talented artist. The textured and touched sonics work so beautifully with her lyrical content that it would feel a shame to remove the orchestral arrangements which provide so much buoyancy.
With that said, this album actually would allow Olsen to return to a more stripped-back version of the record should she so choose. That is because, without a doubt, this album has shown Olsen as a changing, moving, challenging and entirely engaging artist.