A deeper look at the grooves pressed into the Citizen Of Glass LP by Agnes Obel.
As one listens to Agnes Obel‘s third album, Citizen Of Glass, it quickly becomes apparent that it’s only a matter of time. The first couple of albums Obel released really only set a scene and made introductions for the artist – now though, the seems inevitable that she WILL be the next fringe superstar – like Bowie, like Bjork and like Tom Waits. That might seem like a bold statement, but even the first listen clinches it – all the world needs to do is catch up with her.
As soon as listeners sit down with Citizen Of Glass – particularly a vinyl copy of the album (because the warmth of the analogue medium improves the experience, beautifully) – they’ll understand exactly what terms like ‘inevitable’ really mean. The moment a string section descends and settles in among a sinewy drum pattern at the opening of “Stretch Your Ears,” Obel will have their undivided attention as she carefully begins to select the rhythm for her phrasing. The delicacy with which the lines “The darkness and the ghost/ They dance so sweet and low/ Dug out from below there/ To damn the gods” are delivered is positively unbelievable.
Soon, entranced listeners may find that parts of their minds feel as though they live and die at the singer’s leisure. She clearly does not take that honor for granted though. She always seems to gingerly select her phrasing so as not to ever let the mood she’s made lapse and, when the song DOES end, five minutes later, the relief that everything went by so well is absolutely elating.
How many artists with under a decade behind them can say they have such talent and discipline at their command?
As the A-side of Citizen Of Glass continues, Obel is careful to not let the chilly, meticulously orchestrated structuring of the album falter. Tracks like “Familiar” and “It’s Happening Again” maintain a similar kind of styling with fantastic results, while the instrumental “Red Virgin Soil” surpasses the standard set by adding some nerve-wracking samples and strings – which prove to be more dramatic than any lyric sheet could have been.
Further, when “Stone” enters to close the side, listeners will find it easy to ride the troubled vibes supplied by the arpeggiated guitar which drives the track as well as feel the torment explained by the song’s lyric sheet. Truly, to say that the A-side is an emotionally pregnant offering seems like an understatement, but that will not stop listeners from loving it after they’ve heard it or from quickly flipping the record in hopes of more after the side runs out.
… And in a very similar manner to the one which Bjork’s work with Matmos took, “Trojan Horses” not only upholds the vibes set by the A-side of Citizen Of Glass, it imbues the proceeding with some greater depth by adding horns, a greater piano presence and a more active horn sound overall. Impossibly, the results are actually more engaging, too; the catharsis which flows through “Trojan Horses” is as undeniable as it is absolutely breathtaking.
After that, the title track, the stop-and-start introspective instrumental movement of “Grasshopper” and the showstopper/album-closer “Mary” all attempt to match the level of catharsis and resulting pinnacle achieved by “Trojan Horses,” though none quite makes it. However, they do make for a completely absorbing affair, combined.
After running the length of Citizen Of Glass, some listeners may find they’re glowing after the exertion which was required. They likely won’t feel spent, but they’ll be glowing because the shared experience between artist and observer is just so elegant. The album doesn’t exactly adhere to any compositional conventions (in much the same way Bjork’s work never has – not from a pop standpoint), but assembles a series of grand and stunning elements into a set of ten works of aural art. Citizen Of Glass is an exquisite album, reader – treat yourself with it and listen closely.