The wellspring of creativity is a thing not to be defined or understood; some songwriters like to shake their fists at the world, some like to open themselves up like surgeons, making every experience, emotion and thought something to be shared with the world.
Angel Olsen has fitted into that second category for a while now, 2019’s All Mirrors adding layers of opulence to a casebook that at first sat squarely on it’s lo-fi bones. If that was largely acknowledged as a breakthrough moment, Whole New Mess on the surface looks something like a retreat to safety, Olsen working solely to make it with engineer Michael Harris in a converted church in a small Washington town.
This process hardly constituted a gamble, but the rawness of brittle finished article – some of which turns an unblinking spotlight onto a broken down relationship – seems to help re-anchor a performer who has talked very openly about having a complicated relationship with fame.
There are moments here of uncomfortable truth, the titular opener dealing with Olsen’s struggle with addiction whilst on tour, but the poignant and vulnerable, the skeletal Lark Song and Forever Love sound as timeless as much as they feel contemporary. Whole New Mess is a beautiful slice of someone’s personal, ugly truths. It’s lucky for us that not everyone wants to save the world.
You can read the full review here.