When Angel Olsen first emerged as a solo artist in the early 2010s, it was with a spare, haunting acoustic lo-fi that put all focus on her vulnerable, idiosyncratic vocal delivery. As she shifted from country-inflected indie folk to a brooding, more volatile garage-rock blend over the course of her next couple albums, even adding synths to the mix on 2017's My Woman, she managed to keep her tormented songs distinctly intimate. She does it again on All Mirrors, even when lavish arrangements and sometimes seismic production make full use of a 14-piece orchestra alongside guitars, synths, and a thundering low end. All Mirrors was co-produced by Olsen and Burn Your Fire for No Witness' John Congleton, who also mixed it, and features string arrangements by Jherek Bischoff and Ben Babbitt. Babbitt also co-wrote some of the music with Olsen. (The lyrics are all Olsen.) Opening track "Lark" sets the stage, developing from a reticent mumble over distant-sounding strings to a yelping, echoing symphonic pop and back again. "Echoing" may be understating it; the song and much of the studio-made album sound like they were recorded in a cathedral, with instruments simmering at a distance before closing in on the singer at opportune moments. Meanwhile, she fills the reverberating expanses with pleas, frustrations, and sad epiphanies on a set of songs concerned with deciding to walk away from toxic relationships, as the track list guides listeners through "Spring," "Summer," and "Endgame." Amid more theatrical entries, "Too Easy" takes on a dreamy, synth-heavy semi-disco ("Any way you want to, honey/Take me, show me how you want me"). Elsewhere, the devastating "Tonight" sounds as if delivered through tears, combining half-exhaled vocals with the elegant Romanticism of its orchestra accompaniment. The album closes on "Chance," a dramatic, cabaret-style offering that executes the lyrics "It's hard to say forever love/Forever is just so far" with a confident if quivering lilt.
All Mirrors was originally conceived as a double album with solo renditions of the same songs, but as the fully realized tracks took shape, Olsen committed to a definitive version. Though she may have initially built her reputation on stark and brittle atmospheres, it turns out that her trademark vulnerability is only elevated by these stirring, highly stylized interpretations, making it a risk that pays off in spades. ~ Marcy Donelson