Agnes Obel
Philharmonics


4.0
excellent

Review

by Pangea USER (7 Reviews)
November 4th, 2020 | 39 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A very pleasant piano based singer-songwriter album with enough flair to hold the listener's attention

Agnes Obel's debut album Philharmonics has a very simple cover; it’s a picture of her in a striped shirt looking straight into the camara. This is in strong contrast with her later cover art, which have a more artistically advanced look. Aventine and Myopia feature more dark and mysterious pictures of her, while Citizen of Glass has that fancy reflection in glass effect going on. It’s a good representation of her work as most of Philharmonics music is quite straightforward and her later work would show her experimenting more with complicated textures and unique vocal techniques.

The simpleness that her debut presents, however, is of an elegant beauty. The often mainly piano-based songs present a comfortableness that is always pleasant to the ear. While the piano usually offers the backbone to the songs, there are other instruments too - mainly cello, but also acoustic guitar and harp – which are used to compliment the piano melodies. One of the best instrumental embellishments can be heard in ‘Beast’ where the perky harp makes the song stand out very well from the rest. Obel is careful not to overwhelm the listener though, and the instrumental additions never overrule the key piano focus that this album is built on.

Her approach to a straightforward yet affective performance is best shown on the John Cale cover ‘Close Watch’, with a piano melody of only a few notes that enables the listener to focus more strongly on the vulnerable lyrics. There’s little distraction when Obel softly sings “Because there’s nothing I can do ‘cause I can’t live without you”, making the message all the more effective. It’s an album that is confident in its uncomplicatedness and consistently presents the listener with pretty piano melodies that are nice to the ear. This extends to the vocal performance too, which lacks the more complicated techniques of her later work. This is something that mostly works in its favour, as its straightforwardness fits really well with the comfortable atmosphere Obel's debut creates.

Philharmonics is by extension of this approach Obel’s least diverse work. Luckily, it manages to avoid being uninteresting by giving just enough moments that capture the listener’s attention. The chorus of ‘Avenue’, for example, soars throughout the song and presents one of the album’s grandest moments. Or, look at the bright piano melody of the closer ‘On Powdered Ground’, which represents the feeling of light snowfall that Obel is singing about so well. What also strengthens the album’s memorability is the really solid song writing. The obvious example is her breakthrough song ‘Riverside’, with its instantly memorable piano melody and its great, dreamy chorus. It combines the great qualities of both being able to immediately capture the listener’s attention, and having high replayability. Needless to say it remains as one of her best songs to this day.

While Obel’s later work would see her make more sonically compelling music, Philharmonics is perhaps even more effective at delivering immediately satisfying, affectionate messages and great, approachable songs. It’s not an album that seems to care about challenging or amazing the listener, but it is a consistently pleasant listen. It’s a very effective album at setting a pleasurable, relaxing mood that is perfect for gentle early morning wake-ups or winding down after a hard day in the evening. Sometimes that is all you need.



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user ratings (100)
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
Pangea
November 4th 2020


7106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

first review in 5 years lol. huge thanks for Trif for proofreading and feedback!





Digging: Turnstile - Glow On

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
November 4th 2020


25713 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hell yes! Needed one, pos'd!

Digging: Earth and Fire - Song of the Marching Children

Trifolium
November 4th 2020


26219 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Pangeaaaaaa 💕 A POS has come flying your way.



This needed one so badly, yes [2]



Mega happy we can finally discuss how awesomely cute and calming this record is, especially for days like today!

Pangea
November 4th 2020


7106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks and agreed!



i want to shoutout brother sparrow for being super lovely and cute. i had something written for it but it didn't really fit the review

Evok
Contributing Reviewer
November 4th 2020


8502 Comments


Agnes is bae. Sweet review

Digging: Wolves in the Throne Room - Primordial Arcana

Shemson
November 4th 2020


2004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Always up for some Agnes Obel love!

I have had this and Aventine on repeat in my kitchen for literally six weeks as we have a new puppy sleeping in there and wanted him to have some nice background music at night!

Trifolium
November 4th 2020


26219 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Haha mega cute Shemson!



And for sure, Brother Sparrow is super nice!

Shemson
November 4th 2020


2004 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Brother Sparrow was the song that immediately came to my head when I saw this pop up on the front page too, really chill song.



Agnes is the only artist I ever wrote a review for as well, crazy she’s not more well known because everyone I play her to falls in love whatever their tastes are.

Pangea
November 4th 2020


7106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

god the gentle strummimg coupled with the piano melody in brother sparrow. it's so peaceful

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
November 4th 2020


8932 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

sweet review bro, love the t/t here

Digging: Full of Hell - Garden of Burning Apparitions

Pangea
November 4th 2020


7106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thank you! and yeah the t/t is super nice

JesperL
Contributing Reviewer
November 4th 2020


3388 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great review pangea, pos'd! been meaning to dig into her discog some more, have only heard ciz and myopia

few pointers:

- Agnes Obel's debut album.. (add apostrophe)

- "The simpleness that her debut presents, however, is an elegant simpleness." that's simpleness twice, did you mean the first simpleness to be something like 'beauty'?

- "..piano-based..." (add hyphen)

- "This extents to the vocal.." extents = extends

- "This is something that mostly works in its favour, as its straightforwardness works really well with the comfortable atmosphere which her debut creates." this sentence could do with a bit of a rewrite, works is in there 2x, 'which' can be left out and 'her' can be replaced with 'Obel's'

- "Needless to say it maintains..." i'd say maintains = remains

Digging: A Ritual Sea - A Ritual Sea

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
November 4th 2020


8932 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

shit wanted to comment the same first, third and fourth pointers but here comes Jesp for the win

Trifolium
November 4th 2020


26219 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Agnes is the only artist I ever wrote a review for as well, crazy she’s not more well known because everyone I play her to falls in love whatever their tastes are."



So true! She deserves a much bigger audience.

Pangea
November 4th 2020


7106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

thank you so much for the pointers jesper (and dedex!)





fogza
November 4th 2020


2857 Comments


I actually need to run through her discog, I liked the 2020 one I listened to.

Digging: Salif Keita - La Diffrence

Trifolium
November 4th 2020


26219 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

NICE! You should. To me they're all 4.5s hahaha!

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
November 4th 2020


8932 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

fun fact: a Belgian rapper sampled the t/t, and even cited Agnes as one of his favourite artists multiple times:



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmz2mGpILi0

Trifolium
November 4th 2020


26219 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Haha that's awesome!

Love his flow too! And that piano is such a nice addition. Really cool.

Bedex
November 4th 2020


2743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

pang review + obel thread = happy bedex





pos'd of course!



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