What does it sound like?:
All of Agnes Obel’s albums are tender, elegant and graceful. Her first, Philharmonics, evokes the delicate, pristine beauty of a snowflake. Aventine, warmed by a deep blanket of strings, is auburn and gold. Citizens Of Glass expands her horizons with a sonic palate of unusual instruments and percussion. Her latest, Myopia, seems a step back to a long, introspective, moonlit night.
All her signature sounds are here: delicate, flowing piano lines, pizzicato cellos, a bassline that is felt rather than heard, and pure ethereal vocals. She pitches her own voice up and down to create backing by a sepulchral Obel choir. At the heart of it all is her and her piano and this time she adds as few instruments as possible to enlarge the sound. Although, the title track features an actual drum, overall, there is an austere feeling, a sparsity in the production, especially in the strings and the lead vocal, that stings. She doesn’t sing the words clearly, as though reluctant to reveal their secrets. The song titles are enough to be concerning: Camera’s Rolling, Broken Sleep, Island Of Doom, Myopia, Can’t Be, Promise Keeper and Won’t You Call Me. Three instrumentals are miniature classical vignettes, nestling like amuse bouches among the songs.
Agnes Obel isolates herself when she works, writing, recording, singing, playing, producing all by herself, just a couple of trusted friends to play cello and violin. Backward steps are rarely greeted with acclaim. She may not be offering anything new, for her, but it might just be that a regrouping is exactly what she needs to maintain her sanity and enable her to move on positively next time. Myopia is sparse and melancholic, as if mourning a loss or a betrayal. Its pain is exquisite but, as usual, a gorgeous listen from beginning to end.
What does it all *mean*?
Some artists require an investment of time that most people are unable to provide in the 21st century. Agnes Obel is in danger of being lost in clickbait but each of her album’s mysteries unravel after repeated listens and Myopia is no exception.
Goes well with…
Patience. Myopia is best heard alone, after dark.
Might suit people who like…
Jóhan Jóhansson, Debussy, Ravel, Mort Garson and Françoise Hardy.