Agnes Obel – Philharmonics Album Review

Thanks to sustaining crisp production throughout her latest record, Philharmonics, Agnes Obel sounds like a faerie whispering sweet nothings — and occasional sour musings — into your ear. Philharmonics is pleasant enough, but more than that, it’s patient — trumping along in a way that savors its own angelic purity, without all the trappings of naiveté. Here is a soundtrack for waltzing through a field of wild flowers, while somehow managing not to trample upon any of them.

Listen to “Brother Sparrow” – DOWNLOAD MP3

The appreciation or non-appreciation of Obel’s music can be found in the listener’s willingness or unwillingness to savor the small things. In passing, each track may take on the same qualities, and the fast-paced listener-dancer may foolishly overlook the brightly-colored clusters of flowering notes, writing them off as mere clones of one another. After all, what could an album that is almost exclusively centered around vocals and singular piano keys really offer? A bit, it seems, if the mood is right, and ripe. Each singular piano key or variation on Obel’s voice takes on its own unique coloration and sheen on Philharmonics , contributing to a rich, pleasurable creation that sometimes inhabits the world of Elliot Smith and sometimes that of the Virgin Suicides soundtrack.

Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/them) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

Vee has two narrative short films. Searching Skies (2017) touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States; with it, they helped co-organize The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. Reckless Spirits (2022) is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature-length project.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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Written by Vee Hua 華婷婷
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