Angel Olsen writes a masterpiece with ‘All Mirrors’

Album+art+from+Ansel+Olsen%27s+website.
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Angel Olsen writes a masterpiece with ‘All Mirrors’

Album art from Ansel Olsen's website.

Album art from Ansel Olsen's website.

Album art from Ansel Olsen's website.

Album art from Ansel Olsen's website.

Kati Morris

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Angel Olsen’s music has always been confessional. Whether she writes twangy, Americana style folk like on her 2014 debut album “Burn Your Fire for No Witness” or venturing into straight-up jukebox rock ‘n’ roll, like on her 2016 album “MY WOMAN”.

On her fourth studio album, Olsen takes her candid approach to songwriting to the point of catharsis.

Anchored by string arrangements and glitzy synth-pop, “All Mirrors” is essentially Olsen reflecting on the fallout of a breakup that took place sometime during her last tour. The album actually exists in two different versions – first an acoustic, indie-rock project that Olsen wrote in solitude in Anacortes, Washington. For its final form, she teamed up with a soundtrack composer named Ben Babbitt and a 12-piece string section.

“If only we could start again / pretending we don’t know each other,” she proclaims on the opening track, “Lark,” laying out both the narrative and sound for the entire album before it even begins. The song immediately sets the stage, already a grand orchestration on its own. It builds slowly on synths and strings, contracting like lungs gasping for air. The ultimate cathartic moment – the musical equivalent of screaming and breaking glass – takes place in the refrain of “Dream on.”

Title track “All Mirrors” follows, building on the theme of reflection. “Standin’, facin’, all mirrors are erasin’ / Losin’ beauty,” she shouts, amid the ominous string arrangements. Her voice swells before exploding into a haunting echo with the line “At least at times it knew me.”

Among all of the dramatic and soaring vocal performances, there are some tender moments on “All Mirrors.” “Tonight” is almost sung in a whisper, a sharp contrast to her near-screaming vocals at the beginning of the album. This is the moment where it feels like Olsen is coming to terms with the aftermath of falling out of love. “I like the life that I lead without you,” she confesses, her voice cradled tightly by the string section as if it were trying to comfort her.

“All Mirrors” is cinematic in a way that feels like every second is a pivotal moment, a necessary breaking point for Olsen. Unlike the wide-eyed and hopeful “Shut Up Kiss Me” that she became best-known for, “All Mirrors” is an album that beautifully captures the death of love.

9/10

Kati Morris can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @neutralsoymlk.

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