“the music chose me”
I’ve been totally swept away by the beautiful magnificence of this music and couldn’t help but download her album this week. Agnes Obel, a 32 year old Danish divine and most extraordinary album of exquisite melodic magnificence.
Agnes Caroline Thaarup Obel (born 28 October 1980) is a Danish singer/songwriter. Her first album, Philharmonics, was released on the 4 October 2010 in Denmark, Norway, Germany and has won five prizes for: Best Album Of The Year, Best Pop Release Of The Year, Best Debut Artist Of The Year, Best Female Artist Of The Year and Best Songwriter Of The Year. You only have to listen to one of her songs to understand why. It moves you completely.
She took her biggest inspiration from in Jan Johansson‘s work, in addition to influences by artists such as Roy Orbison, Joni Mitchell and PJ Harvey, and also by the French composers Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Eric Satie. she’s produced these incredibly beautiful European folk tunes done in a jazzy style, have influenced the young musician a lot.
In 2009, Obel put a demo of “Just So” on Myspace. The telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom used “Just So” in an advertisement and, after this great opportunity, Obel encountered less difficulty in finding a label for her first album.
She also likes Edgar Allan Poe and photographers Sybille Bergemann, Robert Mapplethorpe, Tina Modotti and Alfred Hitchcock, stating”I adore his enigmatic style, his sophisticated esthetic but always with an extreme simplicity.” The cover of her first album, photographed by Berlin photographer Mali Lazell, is an ‘homage’ to The Birds (film).
She writes, plays, sings, records and produces all her material herself. “The orchestral or symphonic music never interested me. I always was attracted by simple melodies, almost childish.(…) I put a long time before writing texts because the music seems to tell already a story, to project images.” Her piano is really much more than an instrument : “The piano and the singing are two equal things to me – maybe not inseparable but very connected. You can say they are like two equal voices.” For her : “The music is the most obvious means to express what I am, where I am.” “I don’t have the feeling of being motivated by anger, revenge or frustration. I do exactly what I always wanted to do. In fact, I don’t have the feeling to have chosen music. The music chose me.”
“I don’t go out and seek inspiration, I think I get my inspiration from the melody. Sometimes I feel like a melody doesn’t have anything to do with me, but it’s just something that comes, is accumulated from me playing on the piano, and then this little creature just appears.”
For the promotion of Philharmonics, Agnes Obel appears (under the lenses of Mali Lazell) beside an impressive and worrying owl. This is clearly a reference to Alfred Hitchcock‘s classic The Birds (film). However there is no owl in Hitchcock’s film and many people find more connection with Ingmar Bergman universe. “Agnes, really superb, looks like Liv Ullmann in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (film) or Tippi Hedren disguised in a proud Marnie (film) rather than to its catatonic character of The Birds (film)“.
Philharmonics has garnered generally positive review with for example James Skinner from BBC saying that “the compositions… are slow, sombre, sepulchral even, but not without a sense of occasionally singular beauty”. In the French cultural magazine Les Inrockuptibles, Johanna Seban speaks about a “disarming purity” and states: “There is, in these deeply melancholic ballads, the clearness and reassuring nobility of bedside discs.” At last, in Musicomh, Ben Edgell writes: “Obel sings with a hushed and tender grace that waxes wistful and serene over yearning cello, harp, and piano vignettes. She’s a fey siren, with a dusky, near-whispered vocal that speaks to Ane Brun or Eva Cassidy.” French journalists have called Obel : “A revelation to follow”.
This first album has become a critical and commercial success. Philippe Cornet underligne that Philharmonics is “A success that hypnotizes a greedy era of peace and redemption.”