Some albums reveal their treasures on first listen, others take longer to disclose their offerings. The albums released to date by Danish musician Agnes Obel have very much fallen into the latter category. Fourth album Myopia sees that trend deepen and intensify.
The last we heard from Obel was back in 2016 when she released Citizen Of Glass. While still cloaked and crepuscular, it had a certain foregrounding and approachability in places that saw her win a new set of fans drawn to her beautifully alluring music. Myopia is still characterised by the muted, concealed piano sound that has come to define her music, but also feels more unknowable, more withdrawn. Obel has spoken about the isolation she subjected herself to while writing, comparing it to a form of self-imposed myopia, and this has directly found its way into the resulting music.
She has also spoken about how the production of the album was equally important as the music and lyrics and she’s undoubtedly been successful in this respect also – all three elements are closely intertwined into one overriding aesthetic. Obel describes Myopia as being an album about trust in its various forms and this most personal of subjects finds a sympathetic musical setting here.
Broken Sleep offers an early reminder of the strength of her voice as it interacts with the pizzicato strings and soft piano pathways. Island Of Doom shows how she can pull listeners into new fantastical worlds in a similar way to that accomplished so well by the likes of Kate Bush.
Post-classical instrumental miniatures like Roscian, Drosera and Parliament Of Owls have cinematic touches that recall prime Yann Tiersen while the title track is one of the songs to impress upon the memory most with its soaring vocal arcs and sliding strings. Taken together, they all add to the sense of intrigue that runs through her music.
Indeed, as the album plays out it increasingly feels like Obel is still somewhat of a mystery to be uncovered, an enigma to be cracked, a puzzle to be solved. There are many joys to be found within its brittle, opaque sounds but it’s undoubtedly an album that must be lived with for an appropriate length of time for these to fully surface. Yet, this isn’t a bad thing – in this time-pressured, distraction-heavy world in which we live, the appearance of an album that offers beautiful surroundings in which to slow down and decompress should be welcomed wholeheartedly.