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Philharmonics


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Music

Image of album by Agnes Obel

Photos

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Biography

Has it really been almost three years since Philharmonics? Agnes Obel’s debut album still sounds as fresh as a daisy. A delicate flower which became a quiet phenomenom, selling almost half a million copies to date. Philharmonics received a gold award in Holland, platinum awards in Belgium and France, and went quintuple platinum in her native state of Denmark, where Agnes won five Danish ... Read more in Amazon's Agnes Obel Store

Visit Amazon's Agnes Obel Store
for 4 albums, 6 photos, discussions, and more.

Product details

  • Audio CD (4 Oct. 2010)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Pias UK
  • ASIN: B003YHO6XI
  • Other Editions: Audio CD  |  Vinyl  |  MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 34,403 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. Falling, Catching
2. Riverside
3. Brother Sparrow
4. Just So
5. Beast
6. Louretta
7. Avenue
8. Philharmonics
9. Close Watch
10. Wallflower
11. Over the Hill
12. On Powdered Ground

Product Description

BBC Review

Such is the exceptionally sparse nature of Agnes Obel’s debut album that it slips by almost unnoticed lest you lend it a distraction-free, focused ear. It is highly advisable you do so: the compositions that lie within are slow, sombre, sepulchral even, but not without a sense of occasionally singular beauty. A case in point is Riverside, which follows the instrumental Falling, Catching as the first song proper. Entirely built around piano and voice, its soft pleas for solitude and escape are utterly disarming, Obel’s mournful lyric as chilled as the body of water she’s inexplicably drawn to.

Philharmonics is a resolutely early hours affair; a kind of Scandinavian counterpart to the British duo Felix’s wonderful You Are the One I Pick of last year. But where that record generally eschewed structure in favour of dark flights into the surreal, Obel keeps things tight and lean here. Such elements as percussion and auxiliary instrumentation rarely impinge on these songs, and when they do it is sometimes difficult to tell (one notable exception being her meditative cover of John Cale’s I Keep a Close Watch, here simply titled Close Watch).

Oddly for an album that dabbles in such twilit, shadowy waters, it supplied communications giant Deutsche Telekom with music for their recent advertising campaign in Germany, which is where the Copenhagen-born Obel now resides. Just So is the track in question, and while its bright melodies and straightforward lyrics sit at odds with the surrounding, songs like this and Brother Sparrow do furnish Philharmonics some much-needed lightness.

Elsewhere, the title-track engages and unsettles in equal measure, returning to the theme of inescapable tides that opened the album (its first line is particularly striking – "Guess who died last night," Obel coos), while Over the Hill is probably the most traditionally pretty song at a slight three minutes. Obel’s sedative tones are the constant, and though Philharmonics’ deliberate arrangements veer close to the lugubrious at times, they’re capable of some genuinely mesmeric turns.

--James Skinner

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By J. Staines on 13 Jan. 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I wanted to buy some new music for my husband which he had never heard, but might like, so I trawled through iTunes listening to samples. I came across Agnes Obel having listened to a ton of stuff and was captivated by the quality of her voice and by the quite entrancing structure and complexity of the music. It was like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.

Her songs are refreshing, deceptively simple, and satisfying, and (intriguingly) it seems impossible that this lovely voice could be coming from the face portrayed on the cover. Nothing wrong with her face at all, but they don't seem to 'match'! Why? Well, her voice is warm, feminine, and confiding, whereas her face seems a little stern and distant.

I asked my husband just now to describe the album in one or two words and he said: 'Delightful! Almost perfect!'.

He went on to say that there are no tracks on the album that he didn't like and want to hear again right from the first time he played it (which is unusual for any album) and added that her voice 'sends shivers down my spine'.

I think that's a thumbs-up!
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47 of 52 people found the following review helpful By The Wolf TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 Oct. 2010
Format: Audio CD
Agnes Obel is a Danish singer/songwriter and her album
'Philharmonics' is a perfect little wonder. In some ways it's like
a 17th century Dutch still life of a few household objects laid out
on a well-worn kitchen table : a water jug, a pewter tankard, a loaf
of bread, a dead hare. A glimpse of a life lived simply; a quiet
autobiographical snapshot. Nothing can be added or subtracted
without losing the integrity of the whole. A frozen private world.

Ms Obel has the kind of voice which could easily blow away in
a strong wind and her compositions come and go like half-seen,
half-heard spirits in the heart of an Autumn bonfire's dying embers.

There are a dozen pieces in the set. Ephemeral, fragile and devoid
of any kind of artifice or unnecessary decoration. The intensity she
conjures from the most modest of musical means is astonishing.
Voice, piano, occasional additional subtle instrumentation and
percussion. The project is a sustained effort of will to exclude any
element which might disturb the still surface of the sonic waters.

Title track 'Philharmonics' is an especially beguiling example of the
kind of beauty it is possible to create when the ego is kept in check.
A haunting waltz-time arrangement blessed with some enchantingly
limpid vocal harmonies. It comes and goes like a fleeting daydream.

'Riverside' is a fine song. A ballad whose bare bones are as old as
Methuselha. The folk roots of the melody have a childlike profundity
which speaks to us of lost times and distant ancestral voices.

'Brother Sparrow', too, hints at something far deeper than its
uncluttered raiments initially suggest. A delightful idea, touchingly realised.
Read more ›
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By crowscounted on 16 Feb. 2011
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Hauntingly beautiful debut album. Excellent late night chill out. For those who appreciate music in its purest form. Has to be one of the best CDs of 2010. Unfortunately will probably not get the recognition it deserves. Cannot recommend highly enough.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Malcolm Morton on 10 Jun. 2011
Format: Audio CD
One of the joys of internet browsing is that every so often I come across an artist or band, whom I've never previously heard, whose music just makes me shake my head in wonder. This is truly beautiful music and deserves to be widely heard. I'm glad to add my voice to all the other 5 star reviews. This is outstanding music.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Slater8r on 19 May 2011
Format: MP3 Download Verified Purchase
It's really really good - i keep coming back to it because it's so calm, tranquil and beautiful.
Wonderful!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By jayboxjay on 11 Jan. 2011
Format: Audio CD
Having heard the tracks `Riverside' and `Just So', I wanted to hear more before purchasing. One Spotify listen was all I needed to know that the album was just as high quality throughout, so I bought the album straight away. The album is a collection of gentle songs that are beautiful and dark, carefully crafted and produced, a real pleasure to listen to on good quality headphones. Obel's voice floats serenely over the airy guitar and ebbing piano throughout, giving the album a peaceful, but never dreary feel. Don't think twice about buying this album - you won't regret it. I just hope that she tours the UK this year, I would love to see these songs performed live.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By DP on 20 July 2011
Format: Audio CD
2011 re-release from the singer/songwriter. Originally from Copenhagen but now living in Berlin, Agnes was influenced by Roy Orbison, Sonic Youth and Eric Satie. She is often compared to Joanna Newsom, Ane Brun, St. Vincent and Ricki Lee Jones. This deluxe edition includes a bonus disc with six live tracks recorded in Copenhagen along with 5 Piano Versions of tracks that originally appeared on her studio album. PIAS.

Deluxe Edition Track listing;
Tracks
1 Falling, Catching
2 Riverside
3 Brother Sparrow
4 Just So
5 Beast
6 Louretta
7 Avenue
8 Philharmonics
9 Close Watch
10 Wallflower
11 Over the Hill
12 On Powdered Ground

Disc 2

13 Smoke & Mirrors [Live In Copenhagen] [Live]
14 Katie Cruel [Live In Copenhagen] [Live]
15 Sons & Daughters [Live In Copenhagen] [Live]
16 Louretta [Live In Copenhagen] [Live]
17 Philharmonics [Live In Copenhagen] [Live]
18 Close Watch [Live In Copenhagen] [Live]
19 Avenue [Piano Session] [Version]
20 Riverside [Piano Session] [Version]
21 Brother Sparrow [Piano Session] [Version]
22 Just So [Piano Session] [Version]
23 On Powdered Ground [Piano Session] [Version]
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