Personnel: Agnes Obel (vocals, piano, spinet, Mellotron, keyboards, percussion).
Recording information: Brand New Music, Berlin, Mitte (2014-2016); ChalkWood Studio, Berlin, Neukölln (2014-2016).
Photographer: Alex Brüel Flagstad.
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. Where her relatively austere prior outings relied largely on piano and strings, Citizen of Glass revels in ghostly electronics and voice modulation, even going so far as to bring in a temperamental, late-'20s monophonic synthesizer called a Trautonium. The string arrangements are more ambitious and the composition style is a bit more opaque, but the ten-track set is unequivocally Obel-esque. Taking its name from the German concept of the gläserner berger, which translates roughly to the glass citizen, Obel explores the idea of transparency in the overshare-heavy digital age. She also grapples with the death of her father and how those two experiences relate to one another, and the results are both elusive and often incredibly moving. The gothic stateliness of "Trojan Horse" -- think Enya by way of Nick Cave -- the elliptical "Golden Green," and the incredibly seductive single "Familiar," the latter of which sees Obel harmonizing with a pitch-shifted, baritone iteration of her voice, all work on multiple levels, doling out liberal amounts of atmosphere, while remaining remarkably earthbound. Obel's penchant for pairing elements of Elizabethan choral polyphony with millennial angst, not to mention her liberal use of spinet and celeste, would seem pedantic in less skilled hands, but there isn't a single moment on the quietly stunning Citizen of Glass that doesn't feel authentic. ~ James Christopher Monger