Review Roundup: Angel Olsen, Danny Brown, Wilco

A trio of short reviews for October’s biggest releases.

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Angel Olsen - “All Mirrors”

The use of orchestral instrumentation is such a welcome addition to Angel Olsen’s fourth full length album. “All Mirrors” feels vast. I mean, just listen to the chorus on “Impasse.” This album is overpowering in the best way possible. At this point, I’m not sure there’s a stylistic choice she can’t pull off.

The production from John Congleton is absolutely incredible, but I feel Olsen’s vocals and ethereal melodies really steal the show. The vocal melodies on “Summer” are complete earworms and Olsen’s vocals are as passionate and breathtaking as they’ve always been.

Her other records are great, but the atmosphere on “All Mirrors” is completely unmatched in her discography. We already knew she was a great songwriter, vocalist and lyricist, but “All Mirrors” adds a new dynamic to her sound that makes me very excited for whatever she does next after she releases the acoustic counterpart to “All Mirrors” next year.

Danny Brown - “uknowwhatimsayin¿”

Is it possible to not like Danny Brown?

Brown’s 2016 masterpiece “Atrocity Exhibition” put him firmly among the decade’s greatest artists. It was the album of a man in rehabilitation, a twisted look at Brown’s psyche as he battled addiction and self-destructive thoughts.

That’s what makes “uknowwhatimsayin¿” such a welcome change of pace for Brown. It’s far funnier and more upbeat than his previous effort. Still, it does a decent job of retaining the weirdness that made “Atrocity Exhibition” so great. Q-Tip’s production (along with some production cameos from JPEGMAFIA, Paul White, Thundercat and Flying Lotus) is consistently innovative and eccentric throughout. My only real issue with “uknowwhatimsayin¿” are the few lackluster hooks on the tracks about halfway through the record.

I have a feeling “uknowwhatimsayin¿” will be overlooked simply because of the greatness of “Atrocity Exhibition,” but it shouldn’t be.

Wilco - “Ode to Joy”

While the glory days of Wilco may seem like distant memories, “Ode to Joy” proves Jeff Tweedy and crew are not out of ideas yet. This album is particularly sparse, featuring mostly drums and an acoustic guitar. While many albums this quiet tend to fade into the background, Wilco does a great job of keeping listeners interested. They do it by either changing the pace, like on the song “Everyone Hides,” or by adding little instrumental flairs to their songs, like the piano on “White Wooden Cross.”

Tweedy lyrically, is as masterful as ever. Honestly, “Ode to Joy” reminds me of Wilco’s 2002 classic “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” in the way it attempts to capture our current cultural moment. We live in an era of growing authoritarianism and queasy uncertainty. “Ode to Joy” does a pretty good job of captuing that feeling in a bottle. Sure, “Ode to Joy” may not pull it off quite as nicely as “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” did but what album could?

While it doesn’t quite reach the heights of their earlier stuff, “Ode to Joy” might be Wilco’s best album since “A Ghost Is Born.” What a return to form for the “American Radiohead.”

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@themaneater.com

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