SXSW Preview: Agnes Obel

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Agnes Obel
Agnes Obel (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

From KCRW DJ Chris Douridas

It’s a rarity: a new album that comes through the door and is great from beginning to end. When it does, I get excited.

This month I got excited about Agnes Obel’s album Philharmonics.

I love simple, beautiful piano lines. I love Chopin. Satie. I also love simple, unadorned female voices with great lyrics, set in a bitterweet musical environment.

Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple, Hanne Hukkelberg, Laura Veirs, among them. And now Agnes Obel.

While originally from Denmark, Obel lives in Berlin, the same place Hukkelberg staked out for her marvelous Rykestraße 68, named for the address where she did her writing. Berlin was also the backdrop for recordings by other melancholics, Oren Lavie and Dustin O’Halloran.

Stream “Brother Sparrow”

When you check out the album, go straight to “Brother Sparrow” and follow-up with her John Cale cover, “Close Watch”, which triumphs over the original but makes you ever so grateful all over again for Cale’s lyrical brilliance. And Obel’s love of the romantic Chopin, and simple strains of Satie is evident in the album’s ample instrumentals, which are also favorites.

Coming soon, we will be featuring the first ever US radio performance from Agnes Obel, as she makes her way to Austin for this year’s SXSW festival.

We will air a live session from Austin on Saturday, March 19 at 1pm PST, with Obel on piano and with a guest cellist in tow.

I, for one, am looking forward to it.

– Chris Douridas