We talk about how profiles often make her into this mythical figure (or sad girl, as we spoke about last album cycle ): as with Lana Del Rey circa 2011, there seems to be this need to pin her down in order to understand the music.
angel olsen instagram – Angel Olsen Archives
On her fourth album and fourth great evolution, Angel Olsen accompanies an instantly classic outpouring of artistic expression with gothic-synthesizers, some horns, and a colossal assembly of strings. All Mirrors is the kind of album that only certain artists have the talent to pull off. It’s sweepingly orchestral; strings flourish in the background – often haphazardly swelling to the forefront – with an inebriated kind of delight that might sound foolish in lesser hands. Pianos dance with a crystalline elegance that shouldn’t mesh so well with their surroundings, yet they do anyway. Olsen’s voice alternates between sweet, soft-spoken verses and bold awakenings that command control of the room. It’s this delectable balance between meek rock and lustrous, agile pop that not only serves as a series of emotional vignettes, but also as ear candy. Here, Olsen has created an undeniable stunner that should go down as one of the strongest art-pop albums of the year.
Angel Olsen (born January 22, 1987) is an American singer-songwriter and musician from St. Louis, Missouri who currently lives in Asheville, North Carolina. Her music contains elements of traditional folk and indie rock. She has recorded and toured as a backing singer with Bonnie Prince” Billy and the Cairo Gang, before embarking on her own career.
Angel’s shows aren’t a once in a lifetime event packed with over the top action or hyperbole but if you let yourself open up to receive the songs you will find yourself touched by one of the most gently rewarding performances of the year.
That’s true for All Mirrors as much as it is ‘True Blue’. It began in isolation, recorded and written largely alone, with Olsen hiding out in friend Phil Elverum’s (aka Mount Eerie) favourite studio in the small seaside town of Anacortes, Washington. It soon became something very different.
Angel Olsen has already shared the title song from her forthcoming full-length, All Mirrors, and today, she reveals the album’s opening track with the music video to “Lark.” In the clip, Olsen explores every element of nature: air, fire, earth, and water.
In a series of clips from 2011, Olsen performs the germinal songs of her debut EP, Strange Cacti, at Kim’s Video in the East Village, with just a guitar and a practice amp. To watch Olsen share her well of wisdom in this ad hoc setting, surrounded by old VHS tapes, feels like cosmic perfection now. The songs of All Mirrors began this way, too — solo , before Olsen collaborated with Ben Babbitt and Jherek Bischoff to power them with ornate orchestral arrangements that crescendo into the red. Olsen has long mentioned a love of Portuguese fado music, and within All Mirrors’ swarming, awe-filled songs are the markings of its dark, tempestuous heart and searing drama.
Having already had one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year with ‘Burn Your Fire for No Witness’, Angel Olsen is seemingly set to build on that reputation with every show she plays. Angel Olsen possess a spectacular voice, commandingly powerful but at the same time elegantly controlled and a stark contrast to her easy going stage persona.
Olsen wrote “Lark” about the verbal abuse she has endured in relationships — when she quietly sings that “the way you scream like something else is the matter” before “Lark” explodes into relief, the “scream” is not metaphor. “Lark” sounds fittingly monumental in response, a tornado amassing speed. “I used to let everyone make me feel small,” Olsen has said “But I can’t do that anymore. You will see my rage.” In her lyrics, Olsen refuses to sweep the transgressions under the rug; the clenching power of her voice cuts a swarm of strings like a knife, like a bird clipping through fog. To neglect the details, she seems to suggest, would be to disrespect love as a concept entirely.
A sequel to 2007’s Digital Shades Vol. 1, DSVII is a step away from Anthony Gonzalez’s more pop-inflected work. The album’s lodestar is the work of Koji Kondo, the Japanese composer famous for his iconic contributions to the Mario and The Legend of Zelda series. Opener ‘śHell Riders’ť comes on slowly, climaxing with an arrangement of choir, honky 8-bit synths, and finger-picked guitar that will make you feel like you’re collecting power-ups ahead of a boss fight. The song sets the tone for the remainder of the album, which features small pleasures like ‘śHell Riders’ť and ‘śLune de fiel’ť that conjure the sounds of the Reagan-Bush years. The hammy piano riff on the interlude ‘śA Word of Wisdom’ť even sounds like it was plucked from the credit sequence of some lost ‘80s-era family sitcom.
All Mirrors is out worldwide on October 4 on Jagjaguwar. Pre Orders from the Secretly Store come on exclusive opaque aquamarine vinyl. The Jagjaguawar limited and exclusive bundle includes the aquamarine vinyl and the All Mirrors 7″ on silver and black splatter vinyl. The 7″ includes two versions of the album’s title track: All Mirrors” album version and We Are All Mirrors” solo version.
Tracks are at once astute and deeply personal in how they capture vignettes of everyday life and spin them into important lessons. Black”, the most recent single from the record, considers what that word means to different people around the world, as well as to Dave. Voices” has him singing over an old-school garage beat, fighting off personal demons. I could be the rapper with a message like you’re hoping, but what’s the point in me being the best if no one knows it?” he challenges on Psycho”, which flips scattershot between beats and moods as though the track itself is schizophrenic. Dave spends Psychodrama addressing issues caused by the generations who came before him. By the end of the album, he sounds like a figurehead for the hopeful future.
It’s one of the oldest tricks in the playbook: When a musician is looking to telegraph a more mature or sophisticated sound, they send in the strings. Too often, though, when pop artists bring orchestral arrangements into the mix, it can feel mawkish and rote, as though they’re simply outsourcing gravitas. On All Mirrors, Olsen sidesteps this pitfall with grace. The record’s string pieces were arranged by Olsen’s longtime friend Ben Babbitt and the composer Jherek Bischoff, but Olsen herself was quite involved in the process too; a recent New York Times Magazine profile of Olsen described her working with arrangers to communicate her vision of string parts that would react to her vocal lines, rather than simply accompanying them.” As they trill, tremble, and whoosh as aerodynamically as birds, these string arrangements—like Olsen’s evocative and ever-unpredictable voice—always seem to be chasing something more complicated than just beauty.
Four albums in, and it sounds like Angel Olsen is starting to understand herself a little better. This whole album, she agrees, has been a huge learning curve.
It was ultimately reductive, though: My Woman, Olsen’s third album, is a maelstrom of ideas and images. It’s precisely the sort of album that defies neat thesis through-lines, jumping in tone and sound between sick love songs (‘Shut Up Kiss Me’), eerie synth ballads (‘Intern’) and sprawling, ’70s influenced epics (‘Woman’).
The song is even more stunning because it’s bolstered by incisive instrumentation that allows Olsen’s frustration to boil over in a natural, affecting way. Unfortunately, All Mirrors doesn’t maintain this subtlety, in large part because the high-alert string arrangements overpower the album’s dynamics and delicacy. The synth-cloaked New Love Cassette” is dragged down by a plodding tempo that’s exacerbated by these heavy-handed accents, while the nuance of other songs is overshadowed.
Those who know Olsen from the stripped-down intimacy of Burn Your Fire For No Witness ( Unfucktheworld” ) may be startled by the near-Björkian-grandeur on display here — although her 2016 My Woman clearly showed an artist whose trajectory had yet to be fully measured. Here, songs alternate vast orchestral landscapes with similarly-cinematic band tracks, Olsen’s distressed alto moving from shivering whisper to piercing wail and back again.
The songwriting on FIBS is just as experimental as the arrangements, at least on the album’s first two-thirds. The exhilarating ‘śInhale Exhale’ť is driven by a galloping synth line, with an unconventional vocal melody and refrain sung in the round leading to a cacophonous climax. Lyrical references to self-deception’”’śYou say you’re dancing in the deep end, but to me it looks like drowning’ť’”are juxtaposed by a triumphant synth on ‘śKill Joy,’ť and a fractured chorus is eventually joined by a disorienting guitar section reminiscent of mid-2000s math-rock. It’s a twisting, confounding song, as all of Meredith’s best are.
People get offended and they want to know that they’re appreciated and that their ideas are being heard. I think it’s a constant thing you have to work on. It’s a lot of just saying, ‘Hey, I love the sound of these instruments but the words are still the centrepiece for me, and so there are things that might sound really beautiful but they just won’t work for me’. It just takes some extra sentences. People still get mad when you’re kind, but that’s just the way these things go.
After the release of My Woman, she went out on a solo tour to promote Phases in 2017 – an album of B-sides and rarities, where she began playing some of the songs that ended up on All Mirrors. The intention was to create a stripped-back, exposed album to match the lyrical vulnerability of these songs – her version of Springsteen’s Nebraska, she says – but having finished the recording sessions, she realised that they needed something bigger, bolder and weirder. The project was originally conceived as a dual release of both albums, but that stripped-back set was held back.
Olsen says that even she was surprised by how some of the songs turned out. Opening track Lark sets the scene in spectacular fashion, drawing on dramatic strings provided by a 14-piece orchestra. At times, it sounds like Scott Walker tackling a skewed Bond theme.
In their original incarnation, Swans were as ferocious as the heaviest of metal bands, and their live shows were notoriously punishing. They eventually expanded their palette to include industrial and goth elements, and after disbanding in 1999, frontman Michael Gira spent a decade fronting the folk band Angels of Light. When he reformed Swans in 2010, their music was considerably less abrasive. Leaving Meaning continues to incorporate the freak-folk influence and increased melodicism of Swans’s post-reunion efforts, but it’s also another example of the band’s central problem: They’re much easier to respect than like.
The overarching sound, production and instrumentation on Eve are outstanding. Produced by Rapsody’s long-time collaborator and mentor 9th Wonder, the record samples cuts from Herbie Hancock’s Watermelon Man” (Whoopi”) and Phil Collins’s In the Air Tonight” (Cleo”), offers a smooth R&B joint with Aaliyah” featuring the late singer’s ghostly backing vocals, and includes an interlude that is an ode to the black woman’s body”. As on Laila’s Wisdom, Eve conveys Rapsody’s natural feel for funk – Michelle” (Obama) bounces in on a jaunty piano riff – but other tracks, such as closer Afeni”, are pure soul. Nina Simone said an artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times”. This is precisely what Rapsody has done – in the most resonant way possible.
Some of the songs on Ode to Joy tap into the kind of sonic unease that the band hasn’t achieved since ‘śLess Than You Think,’ť an 11-minute epic from A Ghost Is Born that captures the feeling of a panic attack. The beat of ‘śQuiet Amplifier’ť sounds like jackboots goose-stepping across a town square, and the song’s production is compressed to the point of claustrophobia. It feels like a migraine’”another of Wilco’s common musical motifs is trying to replicate the types of headaches that plagued Tweedy for years’”until its last moments open to gentle, acoustic plucking, offering some relief. The percussion on opener ‘śBright Leaves’ť is high in the mix, giving it a Phil Spector-like monolithic sound, while ‘śBefore Us’ť is similarly percussion-forward, with a droning vocal take that approaches anhedonia.
If time is linear, Angel Olsen ‘s fourth studio album All Mirrors exists as a striking 49-minute journey viscerally hurling towards an indeterminate end – an apt mirror for modern times.
For a moment she seemed genuinely worried that listeners might feel she was neglecting her roots or losing sight of her work’s emotional core. But Olsen is wise to the way the self can multiply and fragment; she writes about it in her music, makes it explicit in her videos. Even in her stripped-down early work, she was well aware of the way putting a feeling on display changes it. The overt theatricality of her new phase could be read as an admission that revealing yourself to the world is always an act of conscious self-creation.
In fact, it’s fatiguing to listen to All Mirrors straight through, which makes it easy to overlook the collection’s highlights: the oceanic torch song Impasse,” with its gothic bass fuzz and buzzing-beehive strings; the St. Vincent-esque What It Is” and its galloping, pizzicato string accents; or the jazz-kissed sprawl Endgame.” Even songs without strings suffer by extension: The foggy ’70s-rock homage Spring”—which boasts piano, Mellotron, and various guitars—is sunk by overly busy instrumentation, while the exquisite French-pop trifle Too Easy” is plush but slight.
Ever since 1996’s Ă†nima, Tool has been expanding their sonic palette to include extended instrumental passages, odd time signatures, and lyrics that touch on concepts like Zen Buddhism and Jungian psychology. And these progressive tendencies have reached their zenith on Fear Inoculum; all of its tracks with vocals exceed the 10-minute mark and largely eschew traditional ‘śrock’ť songwriting for more downbeat arrangements and exotic, laidback grooves. Drummer Danny Carey is arguably the album’s MVP, coloring the proceedings with complex polyrhythms and a diverse array of percussion.
Following a tumultuous end to her MY WOMAN tour, Angel Olsen is back with her fourth record All Mirrors, her most hopeful work yet. Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors is out now, via Jagjaguwar Records.
Operatic, mood-altering, over six minutes long: Lark” is one of those opening songs that’s so satisfyingly dense that you can get lost in it for weeks before you’re even ready to move onto Track 2. Plenty more riches await, though. All Mirrors explores some sides of Olsen we haven’t yet heard: The stately ballad Tonight” aches like Vulnicura-era Bjork, while New Love Cassette” conjures a neo-goth vibe similar to the one Sharon Van Etten explored on another of the year’s finest records, Remind Me Tomorrow. (Olsen crafts some unexpected sonic rhymes between synth-y drones and the low-end grumble of cello strings.) The bouncy What It Is” is one of the record’s most upbeat tracks, and also the first Angel Olsen song ever to remind me of Scott Walker, the Beatles, and Tame Impala all at once. You just wanted to forget that your love was bullshit,” Olsen sings, proving that even at her most melodramatic her songs have not lost their wry, knowing sense of humor.
After releasing her first EP , Strange Cacti , 8 and a debut album, Half Way Home, 9 on Bathetic Records, Olsen signed with Jagjaguwar , 10 ahead of her first full-band record, Burn Your Fire for No Witness , 11 which was released on February 17, 2014. 12 13 The closing track of the album, Windows, was featured in the final episode of the Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why in 2017.
The group’s playing is tight and sharp throughout, but Lenker is what makes Big Thief more than just a bar band. Her lyrics are spare and dark, with a poetic sensibility inspired by Anne Sexton and Raymond Carver. Her singing voice is as distinctive as her writing, with a tremulous warble that’s loaded with emotional resonance. Ranging from guttural yowling to barely contained explosiveness, Lenker’s voice is the perfect vehicle for Big Thief’s dark, pretty songs about personal and political wreckage.
I know the acoustic versions, when we get to hear them, will be great — partly because every Angel Olsen album has been great. She’s four for four. We’ll probably get to hear Olsen’s songs a little more clearly when she removes all the bells and whistles, and I trust that she’s not going to put some bullshit on the market. Still, part of me hopes the acoustic take on the album never comes out, if only because I can’t imagine that it’ll be any better than this.
Jess: The video was fun to make. I like that you get my humor. You’re a bit of a larrikin yourself, Angel Olsen. Do you know what a larrikin is? Don’t go googling it, just make a guess.
But even with all this extra stuff ornamenting Olsen’s voice, that voice remains the the focus of All Mirrors. That’s exactly as it should be. Angel Olsen has always been a versatile singer, but she does incredible things with her range here. In the space of a single song, she’ll go from twisted-nerve yelps to mythic incantations to almost-conversational melodic grumbles. And whenever the song calls for her to hit a huge, echoing note, she will come up with the sort of unnatural howl that will make you feel like your blood is freezing.