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Angel Olsen - All Mirrors (Album Review)

Thursday, 24 October 2019 Written by Huw Baines

In rekindling the gleaming production maximalism of the 1980s, modern artists have also continued to pose a long-standing question: is a pop song a pop song because of content or presentation? Angel Olsen’s ‘All Mirrors’ holds a fascinating perspective on the issue. By playing to her existing strengths while also toying with expectations, the cavernous rendering of these songs only drives home how good they are in a nuts and bolts sense.

Olsen originally wrote these songs in isolation in Anacortes, Washington, stripping things back in pursuit of the bare-bones intensity of her early work before making an abrupt left turn. When those versions see the light of day, the comparison between their two states will be a fascinating one.

With some help from John Congleton—whose dayglo skills have lit up records by everyone from St. Vincent to Sharon Van Etten in the recent past—Olsen has retrofitted those songs with monster string arrangements and gleaming, smashy production that remains sympathetic to the subtlety and craft found in the melodies.

Vocally, she pushes herself to match each overblown musical flourish with something equally arresting.

The title track situates Olsen’s voice in a similar space to Echo and the Bunnymen’s peerless Killing Moon—it’s emotive, raw and also somehow ethereal and unknowable. Few songs released this year have so successfully balanced form and meaning, with Olsen’s lyrics speaking of perception and outward presentation just as the instrumental reflects back something entirely different from her initial intentions. “Standing, facing, all mirrors are erasing,” she sings. “Losing beauty, at least at times it knew me.”

Olsen maintains the outsized mood throughout, with the mask slipping only here and there—Spring, for example, has a straightforward piano intro before it slides into a loping pastiche of ‘70s singer-songwriter fare. It’s like Nilsson viewed through a New Romantic lens. The following What It Is performs a similar feat, outfitting its swooping strings with guitars cribbed from the Jesus and Mary Chain circa ‘Psychocandy’.

These reference points and winks, though, are left bobbing in the wake of Olsen’s performance and the quality of the songs. ‘All Mirrors’ continues her run as one of the most compelling voices operating in the pop sphere and promises a second helping of intrigue when the original sessions become public property. The pieces appear to be in place for a thrilling, surprising one-two punch.

Angel Olsen Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon February 10 2020 - BRISTOL SWX
Tue February 11 2020 - LONDON Eventim Apollo
Thu February 13 2020 - MANCHESTER O2 Ritz
Fri February 14 2020 - GLASGOW Barrowland Ballroom

Click here to compare & buy Angel Olsen Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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