Angel Olsen quietly captivated in her album Burn Your Fire for No Witness and dazzled in My Woman, and her latest album All Mirrors is a culmination of all this work. All Mirrors eclipses both of Olsen’s previous albums in quality. Thanks to her sparse vocals, backed by lush orchestral backups, this work feels like a culmination of all her past works. She recorded two versions of All Mirrors: the version released with all of the ornamentation, and a stripped-down version that has yet to be released. Olsen has described this album as being “about walking away from the noise and realizing that you can have solitude and peace in your own thoughts, that your thoughts alone can be just as valid, if not more.”
The first track on the album, “Lark,” is an immediate shock to the system in the framework of Olsen’s previous albums. The first verse of the song contains the lyrics “If only we could start again/ Pretending we don’t know each other.” This is certainly something anyone familiar with Olsen’s previous work should do. This song recognizably builds on her previous work, while clearly progressing the elements of sound and composition. Riddled with rich orchestral moments, this song does not fall into the pop rock orchestral ballad trope, but rather subverts it. There is an artistic integrity in the moments where Olsen allows for the orchestra to overpower her vocals, making it all the more stark when it is just her voice left naked. In this track, there is a sound of something lurking in the shadows. It gives the feeling that the violins could dissolve at anytime, giving the overall impression of a sickly sweet nightmare.
All Mirrors was written similarly to how she wrote her other albums, in near-solitude in Anacortes, Washington. It is a return to form in this degree, with more focus being on the bare bones approach to songwriting, something difficult to believe given how polished this album appears to be. This album has a large and mature sound, utilizing orchestral sections and lush ‘80s synth, with Olsen’s signature take on folk rock. There is nothing as immediately as catchy as Olsen’s “Shut Up Kiss Me” from her previous album My Woman; instead, these lyrics are a return to the introspective musings of Burn Your Fire for No Witness. These lyrics are contemplative on the nature of love and relationships — they offer no clear cut conclusions, allowing for no true answers save for the feeling these questions leave.
In “New Love Cassette,” Olsen creates an ambient sound with synths, introducing violins partway through. With these techniques, Olsen has created music that sounds like it could belong to any decade. Regarding the lyrics, Olsen has stated: “That sentiment is simple, but at the same time, it sounds like you’re singing about the superhuman quality of love: being someone’s ‘breath’ and ‘strength.’”
“Spring” is perhaps the most vulnerable song on the album, contemplating themes of growing up and how little you really know about where you want life to take you until you are looking back: “Remember when we said/ We’d never have children/ I’m holdin’ your baby/ Now that we’re older/ How time has revealed how/ Little we know us.” This song is undeniably bittersweet and comes off as more intimate than some of the other tracks on the album. There is nothing that is as decisive as My Woman — instead we listen to moments of uncertainty.
Angel Olsen has been steadily releasing albums for almost a decade, and All Mirrors shows this experience compositionally and lyrically. With this album, Olsen creates a sound both timeless and fresh. All Mirrors distorts and bends her sound, and is somewhat twisted in its complexity, becoming all the more enchanting to listeners because of these differences.
Zoë Cramer covers music. Contact her at [email protected].