Whole New Mess

Angel Olsen - Whole New Mess
Critic Score
Based on 22 reviews
2020 Ratings: #296 / 857
User Score
Based on 522 ratings
2020 Ratings: #569
Liked by 27 people
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Loud and Quiet

Angel Olsen grapples with emotions of staggering power ... but the intimacy with which we share in her struggles, confessions and absolutions makes this album compulsively engaging.


Managing to be uniquely stylized and engrossing while stripped bare, Whole New Mess not only works in isolation, it deserves equal footing in Olsen's discography.


Whole New Mess is a showcase of Angel Olsen’s limitless talent, and proof that she appears to be able to generate heart-bursting, electrifying emotional power from the simplest of means.

Under The Radar

Although simplistic in delivery, Whole New Mess feels like you’re eavesdropping on catharsis, crouched on the ground, with an ear to a door—so close you can hear her Olsen breathing between phrases.

Consequence of Sound

Olsen is reimagining old ideas here, but with an updated imagination, and the resulting music pulls into focus the idea that pieces of art are never stagnant, but instead dynamic manifestations of artistry captured at certain moments in time.


While the ambitious orchestrations of All Mirrors aren't yet in the picture, these songs -- encompassing love, despair and the rejection of youthful illusions -- are well served by the sparse guitar-and-vocal arrangements and intimate, reverb-y ambience.

It’s about a woman walking away from something that no longer serves her, and becoming the person she always should have been. And with only voice and guitar and lyrics scrawled straight from heart to songbook, she takes to the microphone in that converted Catholic church and sings like a lark. Ascending.

The stark original version of the songwriter’s 2019 album All Mirrors makes the experience of solitude sound metaphysical. The songs are spare, but still feel electric.

Rolling Stone

The cinematic, grandiose arrangements are gone, allowing Olsen and her guitar the space to explore a raw and emotional intensity as she grapples with the dissolution of a long-term relationship.


Whole New Mess proves once again that she requires nothing more than her voice and guitar to craft a world all her own – it's a place unlike any other.


If ‘All Mirrors’ took you to a lavish, creaky ballroom, then ‘Whole New Mess’ tucks you away in the cupboard under the stairs, the door slammed tightly shut.


They have the grit and immediacy of demos, but Whole New Mess sounds just as powerful and just as finished as its more polished predecessor, like we're hearing Olsen work through her ache and confusion in real time.


It’s a record of personal growth in its most authentic form. It’s nice to finally hear the whole story.

Spectrum Culture
Some fans will no doubt be overjoyed to hear these songs as Olsen originally envisioned them, haunted and hazy.
The Line of Best Fit

The Whole New Mess versions are closer and truer to the pain that they were borne out of, and for that reason the songs that are more explicit in their dejection and heartbreak fare the best.

Northern Transmissions

The past can be messy, ugly, and different than how we remember it. But Whole New Mess proves it can also be worth looking back anyway.


Even when playing the same songs, Olsen’s performance alone leans into different emotional textures than the music she plays with her full band, and though this may not be the finest example of her solo work, it remains a distinct testament to the stylistic range of one of today’s most compelling singer/songwriters.

FLOOD Magazine

It largely works because these songs are still very good at their core. But the album is constantly straddling the line between compelling standalone statement and disposable curiosity.


No one would call Angel Olsen's Whole New Mess a pretty album. It's much too stark. But there's something riveting about the way Olsen coos to herself that's soft and comforting.

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.
Louder Than War

In the end, Whole New Mess feels like a victory lap for Olsen. A very well-earned one, for sure, but it’s easily the most inessential thing she’s put out so far. Still, for anyone who loves the songs of All Mirrors, it’s worth exploring.

Beats Per Minute

All in all, it’s disappointing to find that these original-form versions of the songs on All Mirrors don’t succeed much more than that album’s did. The issues are a little different, but some of the core problems remain, namely that some of these songs are simply too flimsily structured or under-written or under-performed to be engaging.


The classic Olsen techniques without her allure or mystique. 'Whole New Mess' doesn't really work outside the context of "it's an acoustic album" The idea of taking the self-analytic songs of 'All Mirrors' and recording them in a claustrophobic setting sounds splendid, but both the execution and the context of these songs are sorely lacking. 'All Mirrors' benefited immensely from grandeur. Even the more minimalist tracks had some sort of spectacle to them. I feel stripping them down ... read more



In 2019 Angel Olsen released her fourth studio album, 'All Mirrors', and to say I was a fan of that release would be an understatement as it made both the top 3 of my 2019 year end list and the top 50 of my 2010 end of decade list. The key thing to note here is that one of the major factors contributing to my love for that album was the very lush, dense and grandiose instrumentation and production. It blew me away last year and it blows me away still, even just ... read more


Thinking that if you liked Angel Olsen's 2019 release All Mirrors you'll be guaranteed to enjoy Whole New Mess, a re-imagining of that record, would inevitably be a little too simple. With only two original songs outside of material from All Mirrors, the opening track Whole New Mess and the heartfelt Waving, Smiling, the songs should feel warm and familiar. However, they are packaged so differently they stand on their own as a completely new work worth exploring.

Where All Mirrors was a ... read more


+ (we are all mirrors), what it is (what it is).


This album feels like I was dragged across a floor of sandpaper until I'm fleshy and bare, and I'm here for it.

Fav Songs: Lark Song, Chance (Forever Love)


a great retelling of all mirrors

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Added on: July 28, 2020