Full length debut from Berlin-based Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel is an intriguing collection of somber, sparsely produced piano songs that reveal haunting minor-chord shadows not far below the delicate musicbox sheen. Obel makes Philharmonics, out now in Europe, a masterpiece of lovely, graceful solitude but you can't help but think that this is not an album of sun but of twilight, an eerie calm that settles as darkness moves in. The effect is both soothing and unsettling as Obel's simply structured folk melodies hang in the air, her dusky vocals a breath of intimate whisper. Think Joanna Newsom-meets-Debussy.
Much of Philharmonics is centered around Obel's sharply defined piano lines, modern minuets of precision and purity even as the atmosphere turns to melancholy and the lyrics drift with surreal imagery of animals, riverbanks and rural landscapes. "Guess who died last night?" she sings at outset of the title track, a twisting melody and stately, somewhat unsettling piano chords the stage for her tightly woven vocal harmonies. "Brother Sparrow" is a gentle folk hymn of odd but affecting lyrical phrasing, offbeat time signatures and mesmerizing acoustic guitar and piano interplay. Rarely has enchantment seemed this effortless. Watch the video for "Riverside", a July DC Daily Video pick, after the jump. Stay tuned for a U.S. release date.
Agnes Obel - "Philharmonics" (from the album Philharmonics)
Agnes Obel - "Brother Sparrow" (from the album Philharmonics)