Like a demo version of All Mirrors
Tommy Monroe
15:56 27th August 2020

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Whole New Mess is the sister record of All Mirrors and Angel Olsen’s first solo project since the release of Half Way Home in 2012. Like its sibling, the songs here were originally recorded in sessions from 2016, when the scars caused by heartbreak were still fresh. Although Olsen’s intention was to release Whole New Mess as an original, intimate, and emotionally raw version of All Mirrors, there isn’t much to explore on the project.

Whole New Mess features two new singles, a new artwork, and vocal over electric guitar chords. However, listeners will find themselves playing a game of compare and contrast as they listen to bare-bone pieces of what was initially released as a well-arranged masterpiece. 9 of the 11 songs on the so-called new project appeared on All Mirrors. The only difference is they are presented here as different versions - mostly driven by ethereal vocals and guitar chords.

Listening to the new record is like listening to the demo version of the original: there’s little to explore other than the creative use of Olsen's striking voice and string sounds. Everything explorable, from the dark lyrics, and themes of heartbreak have been touched on in All Mirrors.

Two new additions ‘Whole New Mess’ and ‘Waving, Smiling’ do fit perfectly into the theme of the album. Songs like ‘(New Love) Cassette’, ‘(Summer Song)’, and ‘Chance (Forever Love)’ meanwhile, allow one to have a new appreciation of the vocal dexterity she brings to the table. ‘Chance (Forever Love)’ is a gem: this version of the song sends one into a reverie.

On Whole New Mess, Olsen is left to be creative with her guitar while filling in instrumental gaps that were once memorable string arrangements and heavenly orchestration. As an artist with many tricks, Olsen manages this well, but the best thing about this record is the amplified vocals. On All Mirrors vocals occasionally sit back in the shadows but listeners can really focus on them here. All in all, though Whole New Mess is merely an acoustic All Mirrors.

Whole New Mess arrives 28 August via Jagjaguwar.

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Photo: Press