Once again, Angel Olsen has managed to create an intensely personal album that will illuminate what you’re already feeling but didn’t know how to say. Olsen is known for making music that acts as an uncanny mirror, reflecting emotions with which fans can sympathise on raw, visceral levels, and this new record is no exception.
The songs on Whole New Mess are gritty but solid, showing how ambitious of a task Olsen set herself when she decided to head to a church-turned-studio in the Pacific Northwest for a personal reckoning. Listening is to be invited on an intensely private trip. Olsen’s vocals take precedent in every song, from her heartbroken crooning on ‘Chance (Forever Love)’ to the belts of ‘Lark Song’ and the echoes that reach us through the murky waters of ‘(New Love) Cassette’.
Nine songs will sound familiar to fans, as they were the blueprints for her 2019 album All Mirrors. In trying to satisfy only her own musical needs, Olsen has somehow made a record that will appeal to fans across the board: those who loved All Mirrors now get a new twist on their favourite songs, and those who long for Olsen’s earlier, more stripped-back sound after hearing that grander, busier record get what they want too.
Angel Olsen grapples with emotions of staggering power – showcased with exquisitely tense vocals and rolling rhythm guitar in ‘(We Are All Mirrors)’ – but the intimacy with which we share in her struggles, confessions and absolutions makes this album compulsively engaging.