A perennial BBC 6Music favourite, Agnes Obel is returning with her third album Citizen of Glass. Having impressed audiences and critics in her native Denmark and other countries in Europe with her debut album, Philharmonics, then her more intimate piano-driven second album Aventine, she is back with a clever, cross-pollination of different music styles including folk, jazz, North African and Baroque music. Only a bold and confident musician like Obel could have pulled it off.
The album is inspired by an article which Obel read about the idea of the ‘Glass Citizen’, which theorises that people have become so easy at sharing their lives that they have become transparent like glass. This interesting concept is gives the album a dark edge.
From the first song ‘Stretch Your Eyes’ you are transported to another exotic world through its intricate string arrangement, Afro-drumbeat and finger-picking guitar. This is followed by ‘Familiar’, which did actually conjure a familiar song, namely Bat for Lashes ‘Daniel’, with both songs having a similar violin arrangement.
‘Red Virgin Soil’ is an instrumental which has a touch of jazz about I, whilst ‘It’s Happening Again’ sounds like it could have been written by Kate Bush and has an innovative nursery-rhyme like quality about it. Other highlights include the single ‘Citizen of Glass’ and ‘Grasshopper’; a hauntingly beautiful piano piece. The standout track is ‘Golden Green’, with its repeating xylophone conjuring an imagery of mystery in the listener’s mind.
It is tempting to shoe-horn Obel in with other female artists who specialise in haunting and fragile music, such as Bjork and Bat for Lashes, but Obel has certainly got a unique vision for her music, taking in eternal themes of love, death and existence, and putting them into a mix of different music style which come together nicely.
4 out of 5
Key track: Golden Green