Album of the Day: Angel Olsen, “All Mirrors”

Angel Olsen has always been a profound songwriter with an impressive voice, but on her new All Mirrors, she swan dives into full-on diva territory. This proper star-turn from the Asheville-based Olsen marries poetic lyrics with swelling arrangements that, at last, capture the breadth and depth of heartache and hope that have long been pillars of her songwriting.

The songs on All Mirrors are adorned like a crystal chandelier, and Olsen sounds at home among the album’s sumptuous arrangements. She lays it out from the start with “Lark,” where she begins singing in a patient murmur before leaping into the song’s piercing chorus. All Mirrors masters any perceived digital-analog divides, with pop-inclined synth elements aligning with string sections that lend the album a heightened sense of drama.

Those string sections, written by Ben Babbitt, succeed not just with transmitting occasional emotive swells, but also in transforming the textures of each song. On “What It Is,” digital effects blur a sweep of high string parts into some sort of pseudo-synth. “Tonight” sounds like it could’ve been plucked from an Oscar-nominated soundtrack from any decade: Olsen sings barely above a whisper amid brushed percussion and elegant strings, about how “It’s not because I don’t love / Just don’t have time to explain / All the things you think you’ve come to understand about me.”
 
Such a cutting line could apply to anyone who’s pigeonholed Olsen as a sadgirl singer-songwriter over the last decade as it could to any ex. Olsen doesn’t “come into her own” with All Mirrors, because her songs have always stood out for their exceptional intimacy and sentiment. But here, their reflection of Olsen as a singularly powerful musician has never been clearer.

-Allison Hussey

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