With an excessive amount of soulless albums being churned out into the world, it’s a rare thing to find an album that is completely unaffected by the devilish results of over-production. As happens occasionally an artist comes along and restores your faith in music. Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel is one of those artists. Her first studio album, titled Philharmonics, is an understated marvel full of exquisite melodies and sweet harmonies. With gentle acoustic guitar and piano as pure as Debussy, there is a surreal beauty that seeps out of every track.
Listening to the first song on the album, an instrumental titled Falling, Catching, you immediately feel a sense of relaxation. It is apparent from the very beginning that this album is a true treasure, most definitely unlike anything you’ve heard before. There is an unflawed assortment of mellow songs such as Wallflower and Over the Hill, which stir a sense of sombre quietude. Providing a pleasant contrast are the more whimsical songs like Beast and Just So. Particular praise should be given to Riverside with its seemingly simple melodies, which is my standout song of the album. It is a song that fills me with sadness and joy at the same time – if that isn’t the mark of a great song I don’t know what is. A charming, quirky and almost child-like quality circles around Obel’s wispy vocals. Her voice sends me into a daydream, providing the perfect soundtrack to a lazy Sunday afternoon. I defy anyone not to feel calm after listening to one or more of these songs.
This is a highly impressive album, made even more impressive by the fact that Obel writes, plays, sings, records and produces all of her material. Philharmonics is the heart and soul of this multi-talented lady, making it even more appealing.
Singer/songwriters are where the true talent lies in the music industry, people who pour their very essence into the songs they create. Some of the most popular artists around at the moment fit this mould and Agnes Obel is a true testament of this. If you’re a fan of chart topping, run-of-the-mill music then Philharmonics is not for you. If, however, you’re a fan of less conventional, alternative acoustic music (think Angus and Julia Stone, Amy Stroup, Smith & Burrows), you should be listening to Agnes Obel and all the glorious, melodious magic she offers. I for one can’t wait to see what else this unusual artist creates in the future.