The cover of Angel Olsen’s newest record All Mirrors defines its mythology well: Olsen stares at the viewer intently, against a hazy grey background swathed in dark fur. She looks like she’s about to speak, but is holding her words. There’s something in her eyes, but it’s hard to tell quite what it is. It’s like we’re looking at her through a movie camera, some blurred glass of emotion and context that isn’t easy to put a finger on. The music of All Mirrors is just as pleasantly evasive — cinematic, even. Each song seems like you’ve heard it before somewhere, as if it was playing in the background all along only to be pulled to the forefront of the listener’s mind. The album is Olsen at her best, capturing the nostalgia of a time in the past, all the while looking forward into the future.
For those familiar with Olsen’s music, it’s clear she is already a luminary in the indie music scene, merging the traditions of her genre with a taste for innovative production and arrangements. All Mirrors embodies these traits at their highest function, bringing everything listeners have always loved about her to a new level, one that echoes the chaos and confusion of our time. She somehow makes the deepest sadness beautiful without watering down its importance. Olsen is a master of emotion in the purest sense. She harnesses the power and vulnerability of losing a lover, losing your grip and losing your mind with thoughtful deliberation, never allowing the listener to bask in their preoccupations for too long before turning onto another path.
The two lead singles released ahead of the record are perfect examples of this attention to detail and mood. “All Mirrors,” the album’s title track, is a ballad full of phantasm and intensity, one that could easily be hummed in the darkness of a listener’s room or screamed out of a car on the freeway all the same. That duality is what makes Olsen’s music so intense in the first place; the fact that it captures the power of interiority without bringing it all the way outside, instead offering that choice to the listener themselves. It’s a reclamation of emotion as something more than weakness. No, emotion isn’t weakness in Olsen’s hands ― it’s a tool to wield the utmost strength. In her eyes, in her music, feeling is the thing that makes us powerful, lets us take control of our lives and narratives in a way that plain logic never could.
“Lark,” the other single, captures this reclamation in plain terms. The accompanying video shows Olsen as she leaves a relationship only to walk through the night into the sunset, a metaphor for renewal and loss all at once. With a hushed tone, the songwriter begins with an admittance of hope: “To forget you is to hide, there’s still so much left to recover.”
If only we could start again, pretending we don’t know each other,” she sings, breaking the listener’s heart only to build it up again as she breaks out into a loud and triumphant chorus. “All we’ve done here is blind one another,” Olsen offers to a lover no longer there. It’s impossible to get through All Mirrors without finding lines like this scattered throughout each song, to feel her words reach inside you and twist your heart with careful hands.
Both “Lark” and “All Mirrors” show the sharp intensity of Olsen’s capabilities, but she is also adept at the softer side of expression, as seen in one of the record’s closing tracks, “Endgame.” This song follows the rest of the album like a sneak attack on the already vulnerable listener, soothing them with Olsen’s soft and classically beautiful voice after the exertion of earlier tracks. “I needed more, needed more, from you,” she whispers, like a lounge singer in an old movie hidden behind curtains.
You can just imagine her on a stage in a velvet gown, the strings of her arrangement playing in the background with a hazy glow. It’s the cinematic quality of each song that makes them so special, like her album cover and her approach in general. For Olsen, songs are not just songs ― with each word, each lilting string, each blast of synthesized sound, she is creating an encapsulated experience for her listener. She doesn’t need to make a movie to express what she wants to with her music, because each track does it for her. Listening to All Mirrors is like watching a million little films in your head, as each note, heavy with meaning, plays on.