Agnes Obel continues to push the boundaries of classical, folk, and experimental music with her new album Myopia. Creating beautifully haunting sounds, the artist delivers a ten-track masterpiece that puts the mind at ease.

Release date: February 21, 2020 | Deutsche Grammophon/Blue Note | Website | Facebook | Listen

Agnes Obel has mastered the art of graceful experimentation. She creates an eerie and hypnotic sound using beautiful harmonies, melodic piano, and percussive strings. The artist experiments with haunting sounds and unique production, while sticking to her roots in elegant piano lines.

Obel is a classically trained musician based in Berlin. Her newest full-length album, Myopia, is eagerly anticipated in the wake of her multiple successful previous releases. The artist released the song “Island of Doom” as a single in October, giving her listeners a taste of her new sound. Following this single, she released the song “Broken Sleep” shortly after. Both had music videos to go along with them, created by Alex Brüel Flagstad.

I am very impressed by this album. Obel weaves poetic lyrics with classical-type instrumental tracks that somehow push the boundaries of many genres. Bringing in classical piano, experimental vocals created by voice modulation, and folk-like string parts, she is appealing to a large variety of listeners. The ten-track album has a magical feel, entrancing the listeners and uplifting them. One can imagine the album being the soundtrack to an enchanted forest of sorts.

The first three songs of the album are similar in style. They each have beautiful piano melodies that seem to carry the song, yet float over top of Obel’s voice. “Camera’s Rolling” and “Broken Sleep” both have very percussive strings, giving the songs a strong base. The album then has a track titled “Roscian”, which is solely dedicated to piano. The light piano is a nice contrast to the darker track before it, “Island of Doom”. 

In the middle of the album is the album’s title song, “Myopia”. This is the busiest song on the album, and offers the most excitement. The song features many instruments, including three different types of percussion. Obel sings a vocal part that doubles the percussive strings and adds a tom drum during parts on top of that for emphasis. Floating over top of the percussion and Obel’s voice is a piano line that repeats itself at times throughout the piece. Every instrument in this song is layered beautifully, expressing emotion at the right moments.

The album is most experimental during the track “Myopia” and the two tracks following. “Drosera”, an instrumental track, pairs a piano line with a flute that offers a sense of uneasiness. This flows into an equally chilling string section and then returns back to the looping piano line. “Can’t Be” is a track that features more vocals, showcasing Obel’s comforting and elegant voice.  Using the strings mainly as percussion, the vocals are layered to create a full sound, chiming in as percussion as well.

The last three tracks on the album are somewhat less experimental, as if to soothe the listener. They remind me of her previous work (especially her album Aventine). I think this was a great way to bring the album to a close.

Many of the tracks in Myopia create the sensation of time passing. Obel does this by accenting each beat evenly and using triplets. It can often be heard in the cello parts, but the piano plays into the effect as well. “Drosera” is a track that greatly emphasizes this. It is a unique theme throughout the album that adds a mysterious feel to each song.

The artist writes graceful lyrics, usually talking a lot about nature and the heart. She writes very detailed, yet ambiguous lyrics. The instrumentals for her music reflect her lyrics in the way that they are very thought out and freeing. In her song “Island of Doom”, she talks about the prison the mind creates and ensures that she will be with them on their way to their island of doom.

‘But the road through mines will lead you back,
and I will be with you
Before the road of your mind will eat you up,
on your island of doom,
Where the voices have all gathered up,
To a choir of fool
But I know my mind will reach you there,
and I will be with you.’ 

I have followed Agnes Obel for many years now and love seeing her push the boundaries of her usual sound. I hope to see her travel further down this path and experiment more with vocal distortion and eerie piano melodies. She has a unique vision like no other and executes it very well. Obel has started touring with the album in Europe and North America. If she is in a location near you, do not pass up the chance to hear this album live! Being immersed in the sound this artist creates will be an unforgettable experience!

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