ANGEL OLSEN – ” All Mirrors “

Posted: October 7, 2019 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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The descent into darkness is a trope we find time again across history, literature and film. But there’s also an abyss above. There’s a winding white staircase that goes ever upward into the great unknown – each step, each turn, requiring a greater boldness and confidence than the one before. This is the journey on which we find Angel Olsen. The singer-songwriter’s artistic beginnings as a collaborator shifted seamlessly to her magnificent, cryptic-to-cosmic solo work, and then she formed bands to play her songs, and her stages and audiences grew exponentially. But all along, Angel Olsen was more concerned with a different kind of path, and on her vulnerable, new album, “All Mirrors”, we can see her taking an introspective deep dive towards internal destinations and revelations. In the process of making this album, she found a new sound and voice, a blast of fury mixed with hard won self-acceptance.

By her usually prolific standards, it’s been a long time between albums for Angel Olsen. “All Mirrors” is her first album for three years – an epic gap given that she used to average an LP a year in the early stage of her career. As usual, Olsen has redefined her sound once more, offering up impassioned songs that come backed by bold, wall of sound style production from John Congleton.

There are many moments of stirring intensity, where swirling strings, eccentric electronics and low-slung indie-rock grooves join forces to create stunning and arresting musical works of art. The more contemplative moments often sound a little like “Mezzanine”-era Massive Attack or Portishead, though Olsen’s voice and Congleton’s production are always unique enough to make comparisons with those bands moot.

The mid-album ballad, “Spring.” Over warm, gently warped piano, Olsen opens with advice: “Don’t take it for granted, love when you have it,” she singe, before observing almost in passing how quickly time flies: “Remember when we said we’d never have children, I’m holding your baby now that we’re older.”

For anyone who’s ever invested too heavily in a hypothetical future, or mentally broken apart every minuscule bit of a fresh and failed romance, that lyric can be a terrifying reminder that we will never know what will happen next. Olsen says as much in the next few lines: “I’m beginning to wonder if anything’s real, guess we’re just at the mercy of the way that we feel.”

Her message never veers into existential-panic territory, though, instead held steady by the song’s even-paced, rolling rhythm, and Olsen’s fuzzy vocals, hovering like a reassuring guide. She ends her gentle journey on the only piece of certainty she has access to: the fragile and fleeting present. “So give me some heaven, just for a while,” she sings, before her falsetto takes off into the heavens: “Make it eternal, there in your smile.”

“Spring” is the song that stayed with me the longest, through my dozens upon dozens of replays lying in my darkened bedroom, cooking with my roommates in my kitchen, singing by myself in the shower, like a forever-looping Twilight Zone-ish theme song. There is no true rhyme or reason to anything; there are just things that happen to us and people we meet, and we should try to enjoy everything while it lasts. It may not be a satisfactory revelation and — don’t get me wrong — it will emotionally wreck you. But once the tides of perpetual uncertainty subside, it’ll feel quite freeing.

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