“Lark,” the opening track on Angel Olsen’s latest record, is a cathartic explosion of the elemental sort. Bonfires, rolling mountains, open skies, pouring rain—shot by cinematographer Ashley Connor (Madeline’s Madeline, The Miseducation of Cameron Post), the music video marries Olsen’s newly adopted symphonic glamour with visuals of untamed fury.
On her 2012 debut album Half Way Home, Olsen might have been described as a country-inflected folk artist. Subsequent releases have incorporated increasing indie-rock and pop elements, but none have made quite so large a break as her recently released fourth album All Mirrors. With haunting synths, string crescendos, and ample reverb, Olsen pulls from sources such as Kate Bush and Serge Gainsbourg, taking her sound in a far more lavish, cinematic direction, albeit building atop the palpable drama her vocals and lyrics have delivered all along.
The video begins at night time, as Olsen ends an argument in her house. Running out into the road, she hops a ride in the back of a pickup truck and finds herself in a mountain vista just as the sun starts to rise. Olsen struts, runs and frolics through the luscious forest and submerges herself in a river, while in intense close ups she wildly emotes, oscillating between the floods of anger, sadness and glory experienced upon escaping a painful relationship. Olsen’s lyrics are similarly fraught, torn between the process of moving on and the impossibility of ever erasing the past. In the opening line, she cautions “to forget you is to hide,” later lamenting “this city’s changed / it’s not what it was back when you loved me.” While the lyrics may explore the difficulties and intricacies of memory, the video revels in the spontaneity that erupts from this tension. The imagery is straightforward and broad, even a little generic, but perfectly befitting the hugeness of the song—here, sweeping and timeless gestures are far more impactful than anything overly quirky or unique.
Filmed in the Blue Ridge mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, “Lark” is not Olsen’s first video project to make use of this same southern landscape. I can’t help but view “Lark” as a follow up to the video for her beautiful 2016 ballad “Pops”. Monochrome, gray and shrouded in mist, the mountains in “Pops” appear ghostly and cold. The concluding lyrics to the track convey a resigned sadness: “I’ll be the thing that lives in the dream when it’s gone.”
In striking contrast, “Lark’s” gigantic refrain of “dream on” positively screams with righteous anger. The fog of the dream has lifted and the mountains are painted in rich and vivid colors. Now, Olsen’s fierce presence feels far, far from ghostly, rather animalistic and teeming with life.