Release Date: Oct 21, 2016
Record label: PIAS
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Citizen of Glass, the third album from Danish-born, Berlin-based singer-songwriter Agnes Obel, takes its title from the German concept of the gläserner bürger, meaning "the glass citizen." It's a legal term that refers to privacy — if somebody is glass, every detail about them is known. Though like the material itself, a person can, of course, never be totally transparent. Like glass, one can be distorted, cracked or even a reflection of something else.Obel uses this idea to create her most ambitious work to date, both conceptually and instrumentally.
Agnes Obel’s third album finds her a long way away from the sweet Tori Amos-style pop that adorned her first album, Philharmonics. Building on the more experimental palette of 2013’s Aventine, Citizen of Glass delivers an ambitious and accomplished collection of pretty, ornate artefacts that are strange – in a Kristin Hersh sort of way, in the cases of Stone or Grasshopper, and transporting Golden Green and Mary to a particularly Joanna Newsom-esque realm. Album opener Stretch Your Eyes is challenging, meanwhile, and wouldn't be out of place on PJ Harvey's Hope Six Demolition Project, yet is still uniquely Agnes Obel.
On her previous two albums, Danish singer Agnes Obel has tended to keep it minimal, relying on the stark beauty of her piano and voice to create a beautifully otherworldly sound. On Obel’s third record, Citizen Of Glass, the sense of strangeness remains, but Obel has beefed up her sound somewhat. Not that Citizen Of Glass is a massive departure from Philharmonics and Aventine – there’s a sense of fragility that runs through all of Obel’s material, something slightly delicate that feels like it’s lulling you out of a deep sleep.
Berlin-dwelling Dane Agnes Obel has been racking up the accolades throughout mainland Europe since her platinum-selling 2011 debut, Philharmonics. With the beguiling Citizen of Glass, her third studio long-player, she looks poised to enchant the rest of the world with her dark charms. A classically trained pianist with an elegant and elastic voice, Obel's melancholic chamber pop invokes names like Goldfrapp, Bat for Lashes, and Anna Calvi, but with a succinct aura of Scandinavian refinery.
Despite the woeful spirit that surrounds most of our staff at the moment, which goes without saying, the past month was actually one of the most enjoyable in terms of music releases for Carl and I. But both of us were not going to back out of our duty to report on some albums that are really worth ….
Once artists find a formula for success, they often stick to it: if it isn’t broken, and all that. After two hugely successful albums – Philharmonics (2010) and Aventine (2013) – you might expect Agnes Obel to stay with what she knows, especially as she is famously superstitious. (Obel records in the same home studio, on the same chair, on the same pianos, singing into the same microphones so as not to tempt fate after earlier successes.) Her new album, Citizen of Glass, however, is markedly different from previous efforts, both conceptually and instrumentally.