Angel Olsen is getting tired of everyone’s shit.
“I’d do anything to see it all the way that you do,” she sang without question on her 2016 release MY WOMAN.
A few years later that includes the breakup of her unknown ex-boyfriend and a few fake friends, she is seeking solace in herself and has become a self-care queen.
The St. Louis native has moved on from her campfire folk-rock sound to a booming 12-piece orchestra and synths that cut and dip like they are bouncing off each other in a house of mirrors, a la the album title. All while backed by steadfast new wave percussion similar to something Kate Bush would make. The change is immediate as the opening track Lark fires on all cylinders and almost serves as the transition into the new Olsen. Starting off with a lone electric guitar, she murmurs:
“To forget you is to hide
There is still so much left to recover
If only we could start again
Pretending we don’t know each other.”
As violins join in the mix and a kick drum build the beat, the guitar fades out and we get a glimpse of someone who is free and independent but is being held down by memories. These memories are smashed and destroyed into tiny pieces of glass with every swelling chorus and hypnotic synths the album has until the glass has turned into tiny pieces of sand that have fallen through her hands and out of her life.
“I’m not alone/I’m not,” she sings in a pitched up voice on Too Easy, attempting to reassure herself that although she is single doesn’t mean she is lonely. At face value this can be taken as an empowering moment, but Olsen twists it by this by the high pitching that she creates and makes it seem like she is delirious when singing it, almost “like I’m in a manic state about my happiness” she stated in an interview. On the ethereal Tonight, she contrasts this by finally accepting the loneliness in a healthy manner, “I like the life I lead/without you,” as if the situation of living alone was cathartic and necessary to understand what she really wanted.
One of the few standout songs, the closer Chance offers us a deep breathe after the internal storm of the first ten tracks. “I wish I could believe all that’s been promised me,” Olsen tells us. This is possibly hinting that this near religious orchestral soundscape that she created was to empower and emancipate all the broken promises and lies she has had to go through.
This is one of the best sounding records of the year. The bold string arrangements expand and amplify like waves within every song with the synths adding a cinematic vibe to the already distinct sound. The lyrics much more introspective offering this contrast of how the mind is scattered after an emotional breakup, creating a unique groove that Olsen executed perfectly. And, if you are thinking, “Man, what a shitty ex-boyfriend,” go listen to the record and give her some streams.
Mason Zeller is a Cal Poly Environmental Management and Protection sophomore and a KCPR staff member. Image credit to Angel Olsen.