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Agnes Obel

Whether simply performing instrumentals on her piano or singing like a nightingale, Agnes Caroline Thaarup Obel (born 28th October 1980 in Gentofte, Copenhagen, Denmark) was clearly inspired by classical music having learned the works of Bartok and Chopin from at a young age. Equally at home with Swedish jazz giant Jan Johansson, singer-songwriter/bit-actress Agnes finally got around to forming her own local band Sohio, a learning curve to becoming a fully-fledged folk star, given the current climate of the anything-goes genre – the squeaky JOANNA NEWSOM, et al.
Subsequently signing to the P.I.A.S. stable of artists, PHILHARMONICS (2010) {*8}, almost immediately won over the hearts and pockets of the Danes, embracing it enough to hit the top of their charts; other continental countries followed suit – by the time one reads this entry (or eventually) the feat will be repeated in Britain. One of the sepulchral and sedate songs on the set was massive Danish hit `Riverside’, while the quirky `Brother Sparrow’ and the cinematic (Swedish soundtrack-esque) `Wallflower’ and `Avenue’ picture-postcard rainy days on the set of a Swedish film location; incidentally, she’d upped sticks to Berlin, Germany.
One thing is clear, is that if 80s indie/neo-classical pianist and chanteuse VIRGINIA ASTLEY had wanted to be a folk artist she’d a-sounded like OBEL, who’s also produced a handful of cover versions, including JOHN CALE’s `I Keep A Close Watch’, the late ELLIOTT SMITH’s `Between The Bars’ and the trad `Katie Cruel’.
Approaching an austere chamber-pop ballad sound, domestic chart-topper AVENTINE (2013) {*8} was a sophomore set to treasure for acolytes of atmospheric singer-songwriter-at-piano players – TORI AMOS, FIONA APPLE, et al. Augmented by a sparse but effective string section, songs such as the title track, `Fuel To Fire’, `Dorian’, `The Curse’, etc. (interspersed with instrumental interludes) were quite simply beautiful. Making her mark in the UK charts for the first time, it was only a matter of time before the name of AGNES OBEL became a household name across the globe.
While a certain un-gagged Lady couldn’t stop herself joining the ranks of plain-clothed singer-songwriter, others such as the elegant OBEL were still awaiting their turn to shine. 2016’s CITIZEN OF GLASS {*8} was as brittle and transparent as the UK Top 30 concept suggested, an altogether sombre and narcotic cycle of songs that elasticated her organic larynx further. Temperamental and experiment with its gloomy, austere chamber-like piano and cello accompaniment, `Familiar’, `Stretch Your Eyes’, `Trojan Horses’ and range-finder `Golden Green’, resonated without much fuss, or the need to shock fans into submission.
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Oct2013-Oct2016

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