Angel Olsen is the master of the angsty anthem. With unrestrained vocals and heavy guitar chords, she’s like a one–woman rock band. That energy and fury is back on her latest album, All Mirrors. Tempered with harmonious string arrangements and, at times, poppy synths, it’s an unexpected album that still maintains the confident vocals and honest lyricism of songs like “Unfucktheworld” and “Shut Up Kiss Me” that earned the artist her devoted following and critical acclaim.
The album’s title track “All Mirrors” opens slowly and quietly, taking its time to crescendo into the powerful ballad you expect from Olsen. At the climax of the song, she sings the line “standin’, facin’, all mirrors are erasin’,” suggesting a newfound transparency and authenticity. This sentiment is reflected in the opening song “Lark,” a more than six–minute track that sounds like an unedited arrangement of various styles, fluctuating from quiet folk to bold rock–and–roll. The background sounds are at odds, clamoring and heavy, yet the final product surprisingly works well—the singer’s vocals and passion tie discordant lines and sections together.
One of the highlights of the album is the track “Spring,” which opens with the prophetic lines “Don’t take it for granted, love when you have it.” Uncharacteristically, it’s a happy song about falling in love and the desire to settle down despite the uncertain future of a relationship. Following in this theme, the songs “Too Easy” and “New Love Cassette” are tender and hopeful songs about devotion. On “What It Is,” Angel Olsen turns around and makes fun of herself, calling her heart “full of shit.” Over upbeat synths, Angel Olsen playfully mocks prior feelings of love. It’s a reminder of the artist’s propensity for edginess.
On “Summer,” the singer's ability to balance disharmony and peace reaches its full form. The song's arc is striking, as the artist’s raw, unaccompanied vocals are met with upbeat and dramatic old–western chords. The lyrics are introspective and honest as the singer questions “Was I becoming what I had to be? Was that the truth I was supposed to see?” Calling out these questions, Angel Olsen strays from her tough, self–assured image to someone who’s more nuanced and adaptive.
The final track, “Chance,” is bare–bones and beautiful. The strained vocals and lyrics suggest heartbreak, but the title of the song hints at hope. String instruments make up a particularly prominent part of the song’s musicality, making the whole endeavor theatrical and moving.
Throughout the album, this use of string arrangements signals that Angel Olsen means business. There's a clear and strong attempt to reflect seriously on her prior experiences and music style. The majority of the lyrics are retrospective, looking back on past love and feelings with profound insight and maturity. As the album takes form, the listener joins the songstress in her moments of clarity and acuity. Cycling through love and heartbreak, cynicism and optimism, All Mirrors proves that Angel Olsen can experiment skillfully in her musicality, lyricism and image. She purposefully avoids just one sound or theme in this album, so it instead reflects the work of a more multi–faceted artist.
Angel Olsen is performing at Franklin Music Hall, Thursday, Oct. 31 with support from Vagabon. More info and tickets available at https://angelolsen.com/