Agnes Obel’s ‘Philharmonics’ is a quiet classic in every sense. The Danish singer-songwriter’s 2010 debut LP unfussily went about its business in the subsequent decade, notching an impressive 450,000+ sales across Europe. It’s also a spare and lovely album full of graceful balladeering - ‘Philharmonics’ set the scene for the emergence of Aldous Harding a few years later.
Vinyl LP £15.49 PIASR195LP
LP on PIAS.
CD £6.99 PIASR195CD
CD on PIAS.
CD £12.99 PIASR195CDX
Deluxe 2CD edition on Pias. Inc. Bonus live material.
8/10 Penrith Steve 13th January 2015
Philharmonics, the debut album by Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel has shifted quite a few units worldwide. Its universal appeal surprised me as it doesn’t usually happen with something this stark. The key to its success lies in the fact that some tracks have been used on TV shows a few times, worming their way in to people’s brains and had people Googling to find out what they are. I liken this album to having the haunting quality of Anna Von Hausswolff, without the harrowing nature. The power of this record is in its understated delivery and beauty of the music.
The well crafted songs are no surprise as Agnes Obel is a classically trained pianist although there is a childlike simplicity to them. There are bound to be comparisons to Joanna Newsom due to her musical approach and I’m sure this will appeal to Newsom’s fanbase, “Beast” in particular. The album’s most memorable track is probably “Riverside”, the melody of which bobs over the piano backing like gentle waves. “Brother Sparrow” reminded me a little of Juliana Hatfield, something I can’t quite put my finger on though. “Avenue” is another stand-out. Agnes Obel has an ability, similar to that of Judee Sill, to throw your heart around with the way her melodies lift and fall. There are elements of Cat Power, in parts reminiscent of her “You Are Free” album. There’s a lovely cover of John Cale’s “Close Watch” here too. All in all, it’s a fine album.
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