Album Reviews

Album Review: Agnes Obel - Myopia (Deutsche Grammophon)

Reuben Raj
Agnes Obel - Camera's Rolling

Danish singer-songwriter Agnes Obel continues on from Citizen of Glass (2016) with her fourth studio album, Myopia. All songs were written by Obel and recorded in her own Berlin home studio following the same principles to blend indie-folk with classical arrangements.

I first came to know about Agnes Obel when I was a DJ at a 2011 Record Store Day party in Singapore. A random stranger clutching a vinyl copy of Philharmonics close to his heart came up to the booth and introduced me to a new world of alternative music. Forever grateful, all of Obel’s studio albums have been (and will be) added to my own vinyl record collection.

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Agnes Obel

Cutting herself away from distractions and outside influences, Obel remains in a self-imposed shell to confront her myopia and produce her latest album. Excessive or obsessive? Maybe both to attain clarity in her exploration of trust and doubt expressed in the form of word and sound. But this time, it is different because this time Obel begins to provoke, mould, refine and create a new dimension to her sound.

Perhaps the change of label from PIAS to Deutsche Grammophon incites the need for change, a new direction? It appears so because Obel breaks new ground by pushing the boundaries of what she set in Citizen of Glass; challenging each element and layers of instrumentation to open up a new world of sonic expression.

Like all other Obel albums, I find Myopia is best enjoyed from start to finish, letting each song fold seamlessly, one after another, through expansive soundscapes and a cacophony of voices confidently led by Obel.

The third single and opening track Camera’s Rolling instantly conjures up a black sky, flickering stars punctuated by muted notes from a vibraphone, a piano and cello partly hidden in the foreground.

In many ways, Myopia is about discovery through experimentation. Twisted rope defies all I know / It holds my reason. The vocal effects and loops in Broken Sleep and Island of Doom comfortably form the soundtrack of a restless and inquisitive mind with a drive for vision and invention. Roscian forms a warm cocoon of melodies for a brief respite before we face our own myopia. Have you ever been to my Myopia / Think of a subtle way / To let it go…

The instrumental pieces in Myopia are exquisitely complex arrangements with fleeting details that further caress the imagination. Hints of mystery follow the pale notes of the piano and lonesome flute on Drosera. The subtle twisting and pitching down of notes from a violin in Parliament of Owls ends in bittersweet emptiness.

The dramatic vocals of Kate Bush would fit perfectly with Promise Keeper and the aesthetics of the album. Lay down with the years / Stand still where the moonlight fills your eyes… Won’t You Call Me provides a soft landing from the journey into the new Obel-esque world.

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And just like that, Myopia ends and we find ourselves left with a sense of longing but yet fulfilled knowing now peace and answers can safely be found in solitude.

Click here to stream or buy
Released: 21 Feb 2020

Written By: Reuben Raj Reuben is a film and digital photographer who is driven by music in his head. Often seen lurking behind a camera inside the pit of a concert or wandering the streets of China with a blond, Reuben harbours intimate feelings for vinyl records and his Hasselblad SW/C from 1965. He is also the founder of Radio 13.