by Evan Welsh (@evanswelsh15)
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. An immense, dramatic, and shattering retrospective on feeling, All Mirrors is massive in both its presentation and statement, a crown jewel in an already gleaming discography.
“Lark” immediately sets the vast, immersive stage for the entire album—the powerful drums and the rising tension of the swirling piece-string orchestra erupt into one of the biggest musical climaxes in music this year, all the while Olsen is delivering a hair-raising vocal performance throughout the entirety of the song. The title track folds dark synth-pop and new-wave into the mix of the record and drags listeners into a psychedelic unraveling of self.
“New Love Cassette” is given a certain shimmer by the heavy synths, but unleashes moments of unease and frustration through a stunning string breakdown about two-thirds of the way through the track. “Spring” is one of the brighter spots on the album sonically even as Olsen confronts the passing of time. “What It Is” chugs along in a manner that is the album’s closest call back to the songwriting of My Woman but brings along captivating strings that both jitter, sway, and distort along the way. “Impasse” and “Endgame” are the two most ethereal tracks on All Mirrors. The former eventually finds a huge climax with cymbal crashes and strings crushing listeners and the latter floats along a bit more softly, in a melancholic atmosphere that closes with a gorgeous combination of flugelhorn and plucked strings. “Tonight” also places its focus on ambiance with cinematic orchestral movements and builds.
Olsen has continuously evolved over her career, with each of her albums taking sonic leaps from one to the next. So it might be a safe assumption that, like All Mirrors, the next stage of Olsen’s career will merely hint at her past presentations. “Chance” is the culmination of All Mirrors as an album and period—a sweeping ballad played before the curtains close on this operatic-in-scope album that doesn’t necessarily capture a feeling of closure, but one of acceptance and reliance of self, as Olsen walks away from this cycle of catharsis with a question.
Something to note is that All Mirrors is actually two albums of the same songs in reflection, on opposite poles, investigating two different pieces of emotional turmoil. The palate of All Mirrors that we currently have access to is maximalist as Olsen allows herself and her listeners to feel absolutely everything. A more sparse twin is set-up to follow soon, wherein an examination of the skeleton of All Mirrors’ devastation might better display the most essential, core sentiments and musical functions of the fourth grand achievement of Olsen’s career.
All Mirrors is a complete statement of broken-heartedness, healing, and understanding—if Olsen hadn’t cemented herself as one of the premier pop songwriters of the 2000s by now, All Mirrors does all but assures it.