Acclaimed Danish Singer-Songwriter Agnes Obel Showcases Dark Enchantress Side On “Myopia” (ALBUM REVIEW)

For almost a decade, Agnes Obel has been one of the most independent and original artists in contemporary music. Now she has returned with her fourth album, Myopia. Following the same principles as with her previous albums (PhilharmonicsAventine and Citizen Of Glass), which she completed as a one-woman project in her own Berlin home studio, Obel has been under self-imposed creative isolation with the removal of all outside influences and distraction in the writing, recording and mixing process. “The albums I’ve worked on have all required that I build a bubble of some kind in which everything becomes about the album.”

“For me the production is intertwined with the lyrics and story behind the songs,” says Obel. This is precisely what makes her music so compelling and differentiated from just about anyone else. “Paradoxically, for me I need to create my own myopia to make music.” Obel was experimenting with techniques of recording processing, warping and pitching down vocals, strings, piano, celesta and luthéal piano, finding ways to melt these elements together to become one and twisting them in a way that you feel at home within the sound she conjures throughout the record. She laid down all the basic tracks herself and later brought in John Corban on violin for six tracks and cellists Kristina Koropecki for five tracks and Charlotte Danhier for two. 

She explains the concept of the ten-track album as being about trust and doubt. It’s about whether one can trust their own feelings and instincts. Her thinking goes very deep as evidenced by these song titles, for example –“Island of Doom” and “Parliament of Owls.”  She says this about the new single and video “Broken Sleep” – “This song was, surprisingly enough, written in a period where I was struggling with falling asleep. In the effort to find a cure I began to read about the science of sleep as well as the cultural history of sleep which led me to the ancient idea that sleep and death are familiar states and problems with sleep are linked to a fear of death. Relics of this idea are still to be found in our language today, in the way we describe both death and sleep.”  As such, these are the lyrics for the chorus – “I would like to fall, silence every call/Fall asleep/Will you level me with a dream?”

Obel has established her reputation as a dark enchantress. A classically trained pianist with an elegant and elastic voice, her music is best described as melancholic chamber pop drawing from the same atmosphere-heavy well as cinematic spellcasters like Antony & the Johnsons and Lisa Hannigan, but with a succinct aura of Scandinavian refinery.  As referenced previously, she has progressively through her previous recordings been experimenting with electronics, voice modulation, and synths. Here she credits herself with all vocals, piano, keyboards, synths, beats and rhythms.

From the opening “Camera’s Rolling” the listener feels transported to some other-worldly place, not quite sure whether it’s a good place or a descent into darkness. It’s very dreamy and a bit fuzzy; but magnetic. Once pulled in, it’s hard to let go. It’s a mysterious place that seemingly offers no easy exits. That kind of vibe basically continues through the ten tracks, some more colorful than others, some with simple and others with more complex beats, punctuated with sparking keyboard runs, vocal layers, and lush meshing of synths with the strings. Obel’s voice is remarkably beautiful, seemingly floating above it all.

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