All Mirrors is a beautifully composed album, with added orchestral elements interacting with Olsen's vocal performance to elevate this album to a new height of power and significance.
All Mirrors, Angel Olsen’s fifth LP was released on the 4th October 2019, and it is just, well damn, it’s lovely. I’m not a stranger to Olsen’s music, on a random listening spree during a boring study session I found a popular song of hers, ‘California’, and appreciated that slow and very odd melodic voice that had a distinct dark tinge to it. After that I listened through her Third LP, MY WOMAN and its most popular track, ‘Shut Up and Kiss Me’, made me swing my head back and forth in fast succession dramatically like a child in a McDonald’s music machine toy advert.
While keeping the powerful distinct voice and the 1960s-esque, indie-female feel, All Mirrors adds an orchestral element in the mixing of instruments that hasn’t been fully utilised by Olsen before, and by God, the powerful and dramatic strings accompanying those gorgeous vocals help to elevate this album to a new level compared to those previous.
The two stand-out tracks, ‘Lark’ and the title track ‘All Mirrors’, act to incorporate these new instruments and help emit and aura of importance and finality to the words sang. While listening one can imagine themselves as a dark Goddess screaming into not just one abyss, but several, in an attempt for someone to answer, it’s damn beautiful, and the atmosphere calls for these songs to be played at an emotional climax to some film, to what film I do not know, but this imagery works, trust me.
These orchestral elements that I keep banging on about aren’t a constant throughout the album, the other tracks alternate between guitar, piano, synthesizers, drums, etc, with the strings being used sparingly as a means to install a certain dramatic atmosphere into any of the lighter signs, the prime example being in the song ‘New Love Cassette’; which is a slow deep song about Olsen helping her partner out of a fog by giving them all of her love & efforts, and these simple loving lyrics seem to increase in meaning by the spurts of violins, once again somehow adding an air of importance to these words. Many of the later songs don’t include orchestral elements, instead coming closer to the sounds of her previous albums, songs you’re able to sway too or just sit still to appreciate the feeling elicited from Olsen’s wonderful voice alone.
In terms of the lyrical themes within the songs, they aren’t that different from those previously seen, it’s the most classic theme of relationships and romance, and the difficulties that come with them. The tracks paddle through the changes of emotions, with the feelings of complete belonging to your partner, to wanting more, to realising your hearts been just trying to fill a void, to wanting to be done with it all, and finally dragging those lost pieces of you back within yourself after a painful breakup.
Even though these are well tread upon topics, Olsen still manages to develop lyrics and deliver meaning in such a unique and finite way. The structuring of the songs, and the sheer beauty of her vocal performances, allow the conveyance of feelings of love, confusion, passion and giving up, in such a clear way. The atmosphere created is incredible, the purposeful balance of different forms of instrument act to keep the listener ever intertwined with Olsen’s story and emotions, the album flicks between all powerful and eminent songs such as ‘Lark’, ‘All Mirrors’ and ‘Impasse’, to slow depressive ballads such as ‘Tonight’ and ‘Endgame’. It is such an organised and well presented collection of tracks, all of which have listening value, and I truly do recommend it to anyone, Olsen has taken a large step with this album and the jumps it has made have seen to further cement her abilities in the creation of an atmosphere and the telling of stories, it’s a magnificent album which I wish for all to experience.
Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors is out now via Jagjaguwar.