Opening with the self-titled track, “Whole New Mess” is a loose instrumental of just reverb and strings. The steel tendrils that snap next to the frankly ethereal vocals from Olsen gives this stage to sonic demise. She describes painfully, “I stretch my bones out on the floor… getting back on track, getting back on track when it all fades to black.” Her voice is the most valuable instrument throughout her releases and Whole New Mess is no different. The storytelling and subtle narration are less muted but more just present. It does not command the listener or audience in any way, never being an overbearing force of nature.
Olsen continues through each track seemingly lost and as she reaches “(New Love) Cassette,” her guitar becomes more focused on forming build-ups and crafting a pinpoint focus to her vocals. Using only two channels for sound is how Olsen can capture the attention and be more illustrative even just through stinted moans or groans in place of lyrics. “(New Love) Cassette” through the entire track is a swell that never breaks over, instead the tension of the piece carries to raise higher and higher until, by the end of the perfectly cut three minute track time, Olsen is once again connected to an unquenchable silence.
It could be harsh to say, but Olsen does her absolute best when she is at her most sunken sounding. The use of her vocals that always has this jagged tenderness
Even on some of the final pieces like “Chance (Forever Love)” or “Impasse (Workin’ For The Name)” have a depressed delivery and little sunshine or hope packed inside. This lack of sun leads to grey aftermath from a heavy storm. The close-up shots of rain that drip off of rust and metallic overcoats relates to Olsen as the reverb and effects drown out her sound to become the focal point. Especially on “Impasse (Workin’ For The Name),” she is nearly silent at the opening but then peels back this iron plating to be fully emersed in a musical destruction.
Fading to black and eventually succumbing to that foreboding silence, Olsen on Whole New Mess is as engaging as always. The continuation of pain and more specifically just the sound of existing is more present as the knife twists deeper and turns to draw new blood from the stone delivery.