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Culture Shock

Angel Olsen - All Mirrors

Angel Olsen is nothing if not a woman with a vision. Confident, modern, and authentic, she stands out in an ever-growing crowd of aspiring musicians. But to call Angel Olsen an “aspiring musician” would do her a great disservice. All Mirrors is a masterpiece all on its own, but it's the culmination of Olsen's lifetime commitment to music and songwriting.

Anyone who has followed Angel Olsen’s career over the past decade knows that she is not an artist that is easy to define. In 2016, she released what some called her breakthrough album, MY WOMAN, which consisted of straight-to-tape singer/songwriter rock and roll, save for the opening track, “Intern”. “Intern” was completely mesmerizing, full of synthesizers punctured by Angel’s skinny, high vibrato. It was so starkly different from the songs that followed; despite having genial feelings about the album as a whole, I remember wishing that more of it had been made in the style of “Intern”.

In All Mirrors, Angel Olsen answered my prayers! In this album, she builds upon the ideas she began in “Intern” and uses them to create what I think is her best work yet. All Mirrors is a magnetic, almost cinematic masterpiece, and is able to both start and finish strong. On the opening track, “Lark”, she starts soft, almost careful, singing tentatively against gentle chords. Suddenly the orchestra joins and Angel’s voice soars. Her signature vibrato sounds lovely and surprisingly powerful on this album, her first to make use of a full orchestra. “Lark” flows naturally into “All Mirrors”, the title track and my personal favorite on the album. True to its name, “All Mirrors” is reflective of the path of Angel Olsen’s life and where she is headed. The lyrics are few but profound, and the musicianship on the track speaks volumes. The rest of the album is a slow burn, from the pulse of “New Love Cassette” to the pop-tinged sorrow of “Spring”. The most striking thing about this album is the use it makes of the orchestra on every track, along with her newfound love of electronic music. I absolutely love how Angel has incorporated synthesizers and computerized sound into her work; it feels fresh without trying too hard. She really finds the soul in the machine.

The craftsmanship on this album cannot be understated. The combination of haunting, futuristic arrangements and wicked pop songwriting is just absolutely brutal, forcing the listener to credit Angel Olsen not only as a singer and songwriter but as a profound musician and producer. She has created something that could possibly be labeled as experimental rock, but it would not be wise to classify her so easily. She has already transformed her sound radically in just two years; who knows where she will go next? I, for one, cannot wait to find out.


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