Song: Angel Olsen – Whole New Mess review

By Phil Scarisbrick

Last year’s All Mirrors was a record that harnessed the majesty of Angel Olsen’s songwriting, and projected it through a sprawling, cinematic production. The final product was one of the most mesmerising collections of 2019, but another piece of information that was disclosed during the promotion of the album piqued the interest of fans. Before the version we got was completed, the original record submitted by Olsen was a far more stripped-back, production-light interpretation of the songs. Now we’re getting to hear the fruits of those earlier sessions in the form of Whole New Mess, out through Jagjaguwar on 28th August.

Along with album announcement, we got a first glimpse in the form of an eponymous single. Within seconds, it is plainly obvious that this is exactly what we were promised in terms of the sound of the record. More in line with her early, more folk flavoured solo work than recent releases, a solitary, slightly distorted guitar backs Olsen, whose delivery reflects somebody who has recently experienced pain. The drone that underpins her voice carry an ominous, foreboding feel – isolating Olsen in the dark – and braces the listener for an unfurling crash of instrumentation that never comes.

Speaking of the process of making the record, Olsen says, ‘I had gone through this breakup, but it was so much bigger than that—I’d lost friendships, too. When you get out of a relationship, you have to examine who you are or were in all the relationships. I wanted to record when I was still processing these feelings. These are the personal takes, encapsulated in a moment.’ The feelings that she channelled through the lyrics are overt in their transparency as she yearns for change, even trying to convince herself, ‘I think I’ll really do the change.

Recorded in October 2018 at The Unknown, the church-turned-studio run by Phil Elverum and Nicholas Wilbur in Anacortes, Washington, Whole New Mess is sure to be an exciting prospect for Olsen’s burgeoning fanbase, and no doubt open her up to even more new converts.

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