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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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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.

Final track 'On Powdered Ground' brings the album
to a stately and quietly majestic close.

Now that she is with us in the listening world Agnes Obel deserves
to be heard. 'Philharmonics' is a truly stunning debut album.
These timeless songs are built to last!

Essential.
22 Comments| 51 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 13 January 2011
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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on 16 February 2011
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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on 20 July 2011
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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on 10 June 2011
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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on 11 January 2011
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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on 19 May 2011
It's really really good - i keep coming back to it because it's so calm, tranquil and beautiful.
Wonderful!
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on 23 January 2011
Agnes Obel certainly does not sound like inexperienced debutant but Philharmonics is in fact her very first full album. And what an album. It has a very unique atmosphere and feel to it. After one listen you will probably be hooked - I was.
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on 10 March 2011
Beautiful album, but not easy to find in the UK. She has the purest voice and some wonderful calm, mellow songs, full of feeling. I'm off to her concert in a couple of weeks. Can't wait.
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on 6 May 2011
Philharmonics is a delightful and charming album from someone with undeniable musical talent, but frankly one hasn't had to look far to find such albums in the last ten years. Even within the relatively small cross section of angelically voiced female singer songwriters, heavily influenced by decidedly aged music (English folk songs or pre-war jazz), with interesting names and from Nordic countries, the Icelandic Emilíana Torrini provides staunch competition. This album is full of piano work, but only at the end of many songs (such as the beautiful last few seconds of Just So) does the music truly flow and one become aware of Obel's skill. Some songs simply feel plodding with distinctly Chopin tinged flourishes added on as an after thought, which would be manageable if the lyrics were truly impressive, but they aren't. They're not bad, just not mind blowing, which is a bit of a shame for a heavily lyric driven genre. I know it's a lot to demand complex, poetic metaphors from someone who speaks English as a second language, but Emilíana Torrini manages it and English is her third. It's a fine album, and certinaly one I'll listen to again and again, particularly when writing, but few of the songs stand out, which makes the lack of variation from track to track all the more apparent.
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