A Berlin-based, Danish-born singer/songwriter and classically trained pianist with an elegant and elastic voice, Agnes Obel's poised and melancholic chamber pop draws from the same atmosphere-heavy well as cinematic spellcasters like Antony & the Johnsons and Lisa Hannigan, but with a succinct aura of Scandinavian refinery. Her evocative blend of classical, pop, jazz, and electronic music found success in Europe on the strength of the platinum-selling Philharmonics and Aventine. Her ambitious 2016 release, Citizen of Glass, which introduced ghostly electronics, voice modulation, and a late-'20s monophonic synthesizer called a Trautonium into the mix, helped to establish her overseas as well.
Born Agnes Caroline Thaarup Obel on October 28, 1980, she took up the piano at a very young age, honing her craft amidst the strains of Bartok and Chopin emanating from the fingers of her musician mother. She later drew inspiration from the work of Swedish jazz pianist Jan Johansson, and it was between those two worlds that her own sound began to emerge. Citing influences as diverse as PJ Harvey and Claude Debussy, and drawing comparisons to the likes Ane Brun, Eva Cassidy, and Joni Mitchell, Obel's 2010 debut, Philharmonics, was written (with the exception of a cover of John Cale's "I Keep a Close Watch"), performed and produced by the artist herself. Pure, austere, and remarkably poised, the pristine mix of instrumentals and atmospheric, melancholy balladry was both a critical and commercial success, especially in her native Denmark, where the record went double platinum. Composed, produced, arranged, and mixed by Obel herself at Chalk Wood Studios, 2013's impressionistic Aventine was another commercial success, charting in nine countries. For her much-anticipated third studio album, 2016's transparency-themed Citizen of Glass, Obel experimented with vintage synthesizers, as well as her own voice, which is at times heavily modulated. The LP earned Obel the Album of the Year award from the Independent Music Companies Association. In 2018 she inked a deal with Deutsche Grammophon and curated a Late Night Tales compilation. 2020 saw Obel release her fourth full-length effort, Myopia, which was entirely self-recorded. (James Christopher Monger, AMG)