I wouldn’t say that seeing Angel Olsen in concert on Halloween caused me to truly appreciate her latest, All Mirrors, but it also didn’t hurt. If anything, it made it clear that the album is on some level an attempt to break with the relative crossover success of 2016’s My Woman, considering the only track she played from it was her now-signature song “Shut Up Kiss Me”. She even made a remark after playing it that she’ll be performing the song forever, since she’ll always be known as the “Shut Up Kiss Me” girl. All Mirrors doesn’t really have any stand-out bangers on the scale of the aforementioned track, but in its overall grandiosity and emotional power, it transcends the need to.
Another possible reason that Olsen is playing less of her older songs live is that they don’t jive quite as much with her current touring band, which now includes a two-person string section. This is because All Mirrors takes a big leap into a more expansive, orchestral sound, with lead-off track “Lark” quite dramatically displaying that Olsen is going all-in on sounding as huge as possible. And unsurprisingly, her always powerful voice is game to match the album’s musical histrionics.
Meanwhile, the album’s lyrical themes feel fairly raw, not that that’s something Olsen has ever been in short supply of, since apparently her rawness is something I mentioned quite a bit in my My Woman review. Though here, Olsen is writing more overtly about her overall mood in the wake of a recent break-up, which she has mentioned in interviews. This gives the album both a kind of melancholy born out of the search for personal happiness, but also has a kind of contentment found in solitude. This kind of quiet solitude is perhaps best illustrated in the swooning, sultry “Tonight”.
Angel Olsen has always felt a bit like a singer out of time. In her earlier records, this felt connected to a more country/folk-inspired approach to indie rock. So it’s surprising that she manages to do that while still embracing some of the synth sounds that were hinted at on My Woman. It’s just that instead of embracing a straight-up synth-pop approach, she decided to combine this with both an orchestral sound as well as the kinds of musical textures you’d hear emanating out of a smokey jazz club at 1 AM. So it makes for an album that manages to be a bit of a curveball, a logical next step, and a great way for one of the decade’s most intriguing singer-songwriters to cap things off.