Angel Olsen: “Lark”

All the narrative action in “Lark,” the opening track from Angel Olsen’s forthcoming album All Mirrors, takes place before the song begins. “If only we could start again pretending we don’t know each other,” she sings in the first verse, leaving an entire history in the subtext. In a fittingly dramatic video, director Ashley Connor visualizes the story with the silhouettes of Olsen and a man fighting behind a closed door, before she pushes outside, comes into focus, and ventures alone to the mountains, the woods, the beach—destinations where we escape the world for quiet contemplation.

But quiet contemplation is not what awaits Olsen. From its dizzying slow-burn intro, “Lark” builds and shapeshifts and eventually explodes into a refrain—“Dream on”—that would make even a bescarved classic rocker blush. She writes as simply as ever about her desires (“What about my dreams?/What about the heart?”), but she also comes as close to straight-up screaming as she’s ever attempted on record. With co-producer John Congleton and a 14-piece orchestra, the arrangement is as visceral as the fire and rain that accompanies her in the video, adding a biblical gravitas to her introspection. Beneath its grand orchestration, the song itself is a series of repeated melodies and mantras, drawn out like a spell being cast. But if her thoughts sound like a transitory moment magnified and sustained, Olsen asks us to immerse ourselves in it completely.

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