Saturday, March 22, 2014

Agnes Obel - Aventine (2013) REVIEW

Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel released her second album "Aventine" in September 2013 via Belgian label Play It Again Sam. Belgian blogger/procrastinator Spook releases his first review after more than two years near total silence, except a post here and there. The link between both is Belgium, but it doesn't matter.

Agnes Obel's first album "Philharmonics", also issued by Play It Again Sam, was issued in 2010 and it showed a pretty talented new face on the European scene, if there is anything close to a European scene. This debut album gained a wide popular recognition mostly thanks to its excellent, stylish but also catchy single "Riverside". I liked the song, but I was a little underwhelmed by her cover of John Cale's "Close Watch", and my interest for the lady stopped there. It was obviously a mistake. "Philharmonics" contains its share of some of the most exquisite chamber pop pearls I've heard in a long time, because pop music it is, despite the instrumentation, violin, cello and piano for the main part, the spare arrangements and the obvious influences of French composers like Erik Satie and Claude Debussy, for instance. Agnes Obel is writing melodic songs with hooks and memorable refrains, the song "Riverside" being a perfect example. One of the main artistic successes of "Philharmonics" lies in the brilliant balance between both music worlds. Now my main reserve concerning this album remains after dozens of listens its near dry, if not stern (just like Obel's face on the album cover), certainly polite sound production. Agnes Obel frigid, though adequate, vocal deliveries, still leaves me sometimes on the fence, uninvolved, and rather cold. Something especially felt on the above mentioned "Close Watch".
"Aventine" is a close but relatively different affair.