Agnes Obel in Brussels (2010)
|Born||28 October 1980|
|Labels||PIAS Recordings (2010)|
Agnes Caroline Thaarup Obel (born 28 October 1980 in Gentofte, Copenhagen) is a Danish singer/songwriter. Her first album, Philharmonics, was released by PIAS Recordings on 4 October 2010 in Europe, most notably Denmark, Norway, and Germany. Philharmonics was certified gold in June 2011 by the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA) for sales of 10,000 units. At the Danish Music Awards in November 2011, Agnes Obel won five prizes: Best Album Of The Year, Best Pop Release Of The Year, Best Debut Artist Of The Year, Best Female Artist Of The Year and Best Songwriter Of The Year.
Life and career
Obel, and her younger brother Holger, grew up in an unconventional environment. Her father had three children from another marriage. He loved to collect strange objects and instruments like the xylophone and the double bass. Her mother, Katja Obel, was a jurist but also a brilliant musician. She used to play Bartók and Chopin on the piano. With a house full of sound and music Agnes Obel learned to play the piano at a very young age. About her learning, Obel says : "I had a classical piano teacher who told me that I shouldn't play what I didn't like. So I just played what I liked. I was never forced to play anything else." During her childhood, Agnes Obel found inspiration in Jan Johansson's work. Johansson's songs, European folk tunes done in a jazzy style, have influenced the young musician a lot.
In 1987, Obel joined a small band as a singer and bass guitar player. The group appeared in a festival and recorded some titles.
In 1994, Agnes Obel had a little part in the short film The Boy Who Walked Backwards / Drengen der gik baglæns by Thomas Vinterberg. Her brother, Holger Thaarup, played the main character in the movie. Credited as Agnes Obel, she has only two scenes. She plays a pupil who share her table with the new comer Andreas (Holger Thaarup).
She attended high school at Det frie Gymnasium, a free school where she was able to take 10 hours of pottery classes a week and play a lot of music. But she quickly dropped out of school. "At seventeen,(...) I met a man who was running a studio. I gave up quickly my musical studies to learn sound techniques." Later, and with the help of Danish musician and producer Elton Theander, Obel founded the Copenhagen based band Sohio. But work in a rock band appeared to expose the dangers of an "encumbered" music. During a visit to Berlin, the artist saw the city as an ideal ground for musical creation, far from Copenhagen which had become "a too small city, too choking." Since 2005, Obel has lived in Berlin.
In 2009, Obel put a demo of "Just So" on Myspace. The telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom used "Just So" in an advertisement and, after this great opportunity, Obel encountered less difficulty in finding a label for her first album.
Obel debuted as a solo singer with her first album Philharmonics (2010). She writes, plays, sings, records and produces all her material herself. "The orchestral or symphonic music never interested me. I always was attracted by simple melodies, almost childish.(…) I put a long time before writing texts because the music seems to tell already a story, to project images." Her piano is really much more than an instrument—Obel says, "The piano and the singing are two equal things to me – maybe not inseparable but very connected. You can say they are like two equal voices." Obel says that, "The music is the most obvious means to express what I am, where I am." "I don't have the feeling of being motivated by anger, revenge or frustration. I do exactly what I always wanted to do. In fact, I don't have the feeling to have chosen music. The music chose me."
All of the songs in Philharmonics are original work except "Close Watch" (I keep A Close Watch by John Cale) & "Katie Cruel" (a folk traditional; as the iTunes bonus track of the album). In 'Live à Paris', released in 11 April 2011 on iTunes, Agnes Obel sings a cover of Elliot Smith's "Between The Bars". Furthermore, Agnes did a duet with Editors singer Tom Smith (musician), performing "The Christmas Song" by Mel Torme - to be found on the Smith & Burrows - album "Funny Looking Angels" (released in November 2011).
For the promotion of Philharmonics, Agnes Obel appears (under the lenses of Mali Lazell) beside an impressive and worrying owl. This is clearly a reference to Alfred Hitchcock's classic The Birds (film). However there is no owl in Hitchcock's film and many people find more connection with Ingmar Bergman universe. "Agnes, really superb, looks like Liv Ullmann in Ingmar Bergman's Persona (film) or Tippi Hedren disguised in a proud Marnie (film) rather than to its catatonic character of The Birds (film)".
Philharmonics has garnered generally positive review with for example James Skinner from BBC saying that "the compositions... are slow, sombre, sepulchral even, but not without a sense of occasionally singular beauty". In the French cultural magazine Les Inrockuptibles, Johanna Seban speaks about a "disarming purity" and states, "There is, in these deeply melancholic ballads, the clearness and reassuring nobility of bedside discs." At last, in Musicomh, Ben Edgell writes, "Obel sings with a hushed and tender grace that waxes wistful and serene over yearning cello, harp, and piano vignettes. She's a fey siren, with a dusky, near-whispered vocal that speaks to Ane Brun or Eva Cassidy." French journalists have called Obel "A revelation to follow".
This first album has become a critical and commercial success. Philippe Cornet underligne that Philharmonics is "A success that hypnotizes a greedy era of peace and redemption."  In March 2011, Obel appeared for the first time in the United States. At the South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival in Austin, Agnes Obel has performed all the titles of her album. In October 2011, Agnes Obel has signed with Wintrup Musik for a more important diffusion of Philharmonics. Wintrup is an independent publisher with its own radio & TV promotion department and the worldwide network of a "major".
"Just So" was featured in a Deutsche Telekom commercial in Germany. Three songs from the album were on the soundtrack of the 2009 film Submarino. "Riverside" was featured in the episode "Not Responsible" of Grey's Anatomy and in Episode 12 of the second season of Offspring. "Avenue" was played in the episode "Trust" from Revenge. "Riverside" was played in the episode "Duplicity" from Revenge and in the episodes "What Are You Doing Here, Ho-Bag?" from The CW's Ringer. "Brother Sparrow" is used in Nivea advertising for Nivea Pure & Natural. In April 2011, the Danish group Lulu Rouge have released a remix version of Agnes Obel's Riverside. Keeping the tracks original beauty, Lulu Rouge have added their special electronic tempo on this famous song.
PIAS Recordings has released, on 7 February 2011, a 'Deluxe Version' of Philharmonics. This Deluxe Version contains five more tracks. Two instrumentals (Riverside and Just So) and three live versions: Over the Hill, Just So, and a new song Smoke & Mirrors. In Riverside EP, Agnes Obel sings "Sons & Daughters". This work is only available on this album.
Since June 2011, Philharmonics is certified gold by the Belgian Entertainment Association (BEA) for sales of 10,000 units. In February 2011, Obel's first album has been nominated for 'Impala European Independent Album of the Year' and the title Riverside (from the Submarino's soundtrack) won the Robert Award for the Best Song of the year 2011.
In October 2011, Agnes Obel wins the 2012 European Border Breakers Awards. The prize celebrate the top new talents in European pop music who "have all succeeded in reaching out to audiences beyond their home country through their talent and energy."
In November 2011, Agnes Obel triumphs at the Danish Music Awards with five prizes for her first album Philharmonics. The artist wins for the Best Album Of The Year, Best Pop Release Of The Year, Best Debut Artist Of The Year, Best Female Artist Of The Year and Best Songwriter Of The Year.
Obel began working on her sophomore album in 2011. In an interview, Obel explained, "There will be new melodies that do not take origin on my life in Berlin or when I was a teenager. I will begin recording this summer when I can take a break from my tour." About her new album, she said, "I started to write new pieces, but all were instrumental ones, with the piano alone… In this moment, I feel more inclined to compose instrumental pieces. I already started to write some texts, but for me, it's more difficult to compose melodies."
On 20 June, Obel revealed on her Facebook page her new album Aventine would be released on 30 September 2013.  A link was also given to various samplers with a traklist of Aventine : 1. Chord Left, 2. Fuel To Fire, 3. Dorian, 4. Aventine, 5. Run Cried The Crawling, 6. Tokka, 7. The Curse, 8. Pass Them By, 9. Words Are Dead, 10. Fivefold, 11. Smoke & Mirrors.
On Aventine, Agnes Obel commented : "I recorded everything quite closely, miking everything closely in a small room, with voices here, the piano here - everything is close to you. So it's sparse, but by varying the dynamic range of the songs I could create almost soundscapes. I was able to make something feel big with just these few instruments."
The French magazine Les Inrockuptibles comments : "This new album is, logically and for many people, an event." "The Curse", the lead single from the album, was released on 20 August. The videoclip of "The Curse", with an oniric and vintage aesthetic, was directed by Alex Brüel Flagstad. Les Inrockuptibles gives also a link to discover an another title from Aventine : Fuel to Fire.
Frank Eidel, from quebecspot.com, comments : "It's a fascinating collection of remarquables pieces, with rich and intense arrangements supported by Obel's dazzling voice."
Since 24 September, Aventine is available on itunes. Tom Burgel writes : "The few reactions collected have been very positive and, already, full with love : The elegance of Agnes and the rare grace of her writings will cause, without any doubts, some strong palpitations in the hearts of the amateurs."
The web site Mushroompromotions underlignes : "‘Aventine’ is a beautiful record, intriguingly unhurried. If the first record was a wander through the forest, this one takes the time to see the beauty and feel the texture in a single leaf. It is at once microcosmic and universal. (...) Agnes creates her own world, or as she calls it, a bubble or bell jar, to make her music. Once inside (or should that be outside?), she’s no longer conscious of what’s going on. This is the mystery of her modus operandi, something she cannot explain. Which simply adds to the ethereal quality of her music."
Caroline Sullivan, from The Guardian, says : "The lyrics are impressionistic sketches (…) suggesting she saved the real firepower for the exquisite arrangements : sculpting strings and piano into beautifully melancholy ripples. Like Ane Brun and Seventh Tree-era Alison Goldfrapp, Obel is exceedingly good at conveying weariness and disorientation through sound (…). A wonderful autumn album."
Alice Parker, from contactmusic.com, writes in a dithyrambic review : "This album is simply stunning and, if possible, even more captivating than her first album. 'Aventine' is nothing short of mesmerising and it is clear that this 'difficult second album' will live up to expectation and could quite possibly surpass the success of its predecessor."
Agnes Obel is influenced by artists such as Roy Orbison, Joni Mitchell and PJ Harvey, and also by the French composers Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Erik Satie. She also likes Edgar Allan Poe and photographers Sybille Bergemann, Robert Mapplethorpe, Tina Modotti and Alfred Hitchcock. Concerning Hitchcock, she says, "I adore his enigmatic style, his sophisticated esthetic but always with an extreme simplicity." The cover of her first album, photographed by Berlin photographer Mali Lazell, is an 'homage' to The Birds (film). Agnes Obel likes also the experimental filmmaker Maya Daren. Sometimes, Obel tests some of her demos on Daren's movies.
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart.|
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions|
|iTunes Live à Paris||—||—||131||—||—|
|iTunes Festival: London 2013||
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart.|
|Single||Year||Peak chart positions||Certifications||Album|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart.|
Other charted songs
|Single||Year||Peak chart positions||Album|
|"On Powdered Ground"||2011||26||Philharmonics|
- Cornet, Philippe (5 May 2011). "Il faut laisser la mélodie décider du texte". FocusVif.
- Schlosser, Rune (4 October 2010). "Agnes Obel – Ny melodisk klaverpop". Gaffa. Archived from the original on 7 October 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2010. (Danish)
- "Disque D'Or 2001" (in French). Retrieved 21 June 2011.
- "Agnes Obels store triumf ved DMA" (in Danish). 5 November 2011. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
- Cassavetti, Hugo (3 February 2011). "Rencontre avec Agnes Obel". Telerama.
- "Agnes Obel Interview".
- Moreau, Florence (30 January 2011). "Agnes Obel". La Voix du Nord. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
- Davet, Stephane (10 February 2011). "La grace mélancolique secrète d'Agnes Obel". Le Monde. Retrieved 28 February 2011.
- "Drengen der gik baglæns on IMDB".
- Borg, Carina (29 december). "Portræt af Agnes Obel". DR. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
- Bounoua, Mélissa (22 March 2011). "Agnes Obel sur 20minutes.fr". 20minutes. Retrieved 22 March 2011.
- "Agnes Obel Interview".
- McCormick, Neil (6 April 2011). "New Faces Agnes Obel". The Daily Telegraph (London).
- Millecamps, Matthieu (13 Septembre 2011). "La Grâce naturelle de Mademoiselle Obel".
- The Quietus http://thequietus.com/articles/06698-agnes-obel-interview 2004, p. 13
- "Agnes Obel au Bikini le 19 Septembre 2011". 19 Septembre 2011.
- Skinner, James (6 October 2010). "Agnes Obel Philharmonics Review". BBC. Archived from the original on 9 October 2010. Retrieved 14 October 2010.
- Seban, Johanna (9 December 2010). "Agnes Obel La Pureté désarmante". Les Inrockuptibles.
- Edgell, Ben (4 October 2010). "Agnes Obel Philharmonics". Musicomh.
- "Agnes Obel" (in French). 8 February 2011.
- "Agnes Obel schedule". 2011.
- Nützel, Michael (27 October 2011). "Wintrup signt Agnes Obel weltweit". musikmarkt.
- Kønigsfeldt, Amalie (7 October 2010). obel-philharmonics "Agnes Obel – en symfoni af vellyd". Soundvenue. Retrieved 14 October 2010. (Danish)
- "Agnes Obel on Revenge (ABC)". Rock Steady Music. 16 September 2011. Retrieved 29 September 2011.
- "Ringer Music". 8 February 2012.
- "Nivea Pure & Natural". 8 February 2011.
- "Impala European Independent Album of the Year". 30 January 2011.
- "Nominerede personer 2011". 1 March 2011.
- "European Border Breakers Awards 2012". 5 October 2011.
- "Recording choir with Agnes Obel".
- Bourdais Sophie. Article : "Obel Masquée" dans Télérama N°3323 du 21 au 27 Septembre 2013.
- "Agnes Obel Announces New Album 'Aventine' Released 30th September 2013".
- Burget, Thomas. "Agnes Obel : nouvel album en septembre".
- "The Curse nouveau clip d'Agnes Obel".
- Burgel, Thomas. "Agnes Obel : Le titre “Fuel to Fire” en avant-première".
- "Le concert d'Agnes Obel à l'iTunes Festival à voir en intégralité".
- "Agnes Obel in concert at Itunes Festival".
- "Aventine, le nouvel album d’Agnes Obel, disponible le 1er octobre".
- "Aventine, en avant première".
- "Agnes Obel – Aventine (Out Friday, September 27th 2013)".
- "Agnes Obel: Aventine – review".
- "Obel, Aventine".
- "Agnes Obel : Découvrez ses artistes fétiches".
- "Mali Lazell Web site – Portfolio : Tempers Of Nature".
- "Agnes Obel on Qobuz".
- danishcharts.com – Discography Agnes Obel. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
- ultratop.be – Discographie Agnes Obel. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
- Discographie Agnes Obel. lescharts.com, Retrieved 3 April 2011.
- "Top 100 Artist Album, Week Ending 3 October 2013". Chart-Track. IRMA. Retrieved 5 October 2013.
- dutchcharts.nl – Discografie Agnes Obel. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
- Discographie Agnes Obel – hitparade.ch, Retrieved 3 April 2011.
- "2013 Top 40 Official Albums Chart UK Archive". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
- "Certificeringer" (in Danish). IFPI Denmark. Retrieved 2013-06-20.
- "LES DISQUES D'OR/DE PLATINE – SINGLES – 2011". Ultratop (in French). ULTRATOP & Hung Medien / hitparade.ch. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
- "Agnes Obel Platinum in France". PIAS Recordings. 27 April 2011. Retrieved 20 May 2011.
- "Single - Agnes Obel, Just So". Media Control Charts. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Track Top-40". Hitlisten. IFPI Danmark & Nielsen Music. 25 November 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
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