Album of the Week: Angel Olsen, Whole New Mess

Angel Olsen, electric guitar, and an occasional organ in a repurposed church turned recording studio on the coast in the Pacific Northwest. If all that sounds too good to be true, it is but it is.

Whole New Mess is a pre-working of Olsen’s 2019 release All Mirrors which saw her voice and guitar backed by a 12-piece string section — “I thought it would be more interesting to see something explosive, and then take a look back to where it started to do it the other way around,” she explained.

As you can hear, Olsen has chops and enough seasoning to let things relax and flow, like tears in the rain. This recording came on the heels of a breakup which finds its way into most of the lyrics along with addiction (title track) for a decidedly down-but-finding-a-way-out vibe.

For me, Whole New Mess was love at first listen [footnote 1]. When Olsen sings:

I’ve made my bed
I’ve laid out all those tears
I’ve made my bed
Made up of all my fears
All my fears, cried out all of those years
Cried out all of those years
Now baby I’m lying

On “Waving & Smiling” I got chills, Patsy Cline chills. Yea, that Patsy Cline. This is some of the simplest music-making you can make and reminds us of the power a single voice has to move us, even to places we might not want to go.

Whole New Mess was released today on Jagjaguwar and its the perfect accompaniment for the healing process.

  1. If you’re looking for an audiophile recording, this ain’t it.