Posts Tagged ‘Agnes Obel’

Greatest Songs of the 21st Century… So Far: An Idiosyncratic List.

September 10, 2013

885Songs of New MilleniumThe thirteenth year of the 21st century doesn’t seem to be the right time to look back on the best of the millennium.  Those lists usually come on the decade and quarter century marks.  But I was asked to compile another Top Ten list for Echoes affiliate, WXPN in Philadelphia.  This time, the impossible assignment was picking the Top Ten Greatest Songs of the New Millennium for their 885 Greatest Songs of the New Millennium Countdown This is never an easy task but it made me think of the songs I keep coming back to, the songs that haven’t left my iPhone where music is constantly being cycled off to make room for new material.

One thing I like about this list is it takes classic rock, new wave, progressive rock and just about everything else I grew up with out of the equation.  In my 885 Best Rock Songs list I picked The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” as number one and wrote that “I think any of 10 tunes by The Rolling Stones could be on this list.”  On this  list, there aren’t any great new Rolling Stones tunes in this century.  Nor are there any great new Pink Floyd, The Who or Hendrix tunes to be found.   Six of my ten songs are from artists who began recording in the 2000’s

Because it is greatest “songs,” I left out instrumentals, except for one, which, in an admittedly idiosyncratic move, I made number 1.  For some reason, several of the tracks are from 2008.  It’s not much like the lists of other XPN hosts, and will certainly be nothing like the list that comes from their 885 Greatest Songs of the New Millennium Poll with listeners, but it’s my list.  Follow the link to vote for your own.  Voting ends September 16. At the bottom, I’ve got a Spotify Playlist of John Diliberto’s Top Ten Songs of the New Millennium, So Far.


1 Ulrich Schnauss “Clear Day”
StrangleyWhat a great way to start this list, a wash of white noise obliterating all that came before, then slowly a syncopated 4/4 snare groove rolls in, droning synth chords, a chilling melody and one of those classic Ulrich Schnauss choruses that hooks you on a train ride to ecstasy.  This is one of several tracks from Schnauss’ 2003 CD A Strangely Isolated Place that I could’ve picked. (See Five Best Ulrich Schnauss CDs).  Somebody should write lyrics for this. It’s waiting to be a hit.

2 Moby – Wait for Me
Wait for MeIn my review of this Echoes CD of the Month in July 2009 I wrote: “The title track is another song that seems to contemplate eternity of a lost soul.  It’s sung by Kelli Scarr, who has a fragility that breaks over the waves of Moby’s ghost rhythms, minimalist piano figure and sonic scrims.  She sings “I’m gonna ask you to look away, I lost my hands and it hurts to pray” like a half-remembered nursery rhyme, a paean to lost youth, a contemplation of the end.

It’s a heartbreaking song from an album that makes heartbreak beautiful and noble. (See Five Best Moby CDS) The video doesn’t quite fit the song, so just listen, or just watch.

3 Black Angels, “Yellow Elevator #2”
This is a song I often hit repeat on with my iPhone.  In fact, I just did again. Quoting the “Twilight Zone” theme and Pink Floyd’s “Lucifer Sam,” with Question Mark & the Mysterian’s organ, The Black Angels paint a psychedelic landscape of oblivion this song from their album, Phosphene Dream.  I usually don’t like codas, but the coda for “Yellow Elevator #2” is the most poignant theme this band has recorded.  It was great this year to hear them return it to their live performances after excising it the previous couple of tours.  Excuse me while I kiss these guys. (Review of Album & performance:

Western4 Loner – “Already Numb” Is heartbreak a theme of this list?  It doesn’t get more forlorn than Loner’s song of lost innocence sung in a beautiful alto over a spare, Satie-like piano theme backed by organ.  The line that gets me every time is

“Album covers, I don’t know how.  Could move me once, but cannot now.”

It’s from his album, Western Sci-Fi which is full of beautiful chamber pop.

UNQOTSA5 Olivier Libaux “Go With the Flow” After that heartbreak, I need some joy.  “Go with the Flow” is easily one the most jubilant tracks on Olivier Libaux’s album Uncovered Queens of the Stone Age the Echoes CD of the Month in July 2013. It’s a rollicking party played over a bouncing groove, with vocals provided by Iceland’s Emiliana Torrini.  The sound effects of a cheering audience are used as a musical element that amps-up the elation in QOTSA writer Josh Homme’s story about trying for love despite it all.

Lobotomy Ses6 Alu – “Circus Cosmos”
Alu paints a soundtrack from Mr. Dark’s Pandemonium Carnival (“Something Wicked This Way Comes”).  It’s a three-ring psychosis with calliope organ spinning a tale of delirious love.  Rather than go gothic in tone, Alu’s is euphoric.  It also has an unforgettable chorus:

You are the photograph that I’ve never seen
You are my phantom, the fountain of dreams.
I’ve been living in a mortuary, my whole life long.

There’s more imagery in that one chorus than most musicians conjure for an entire CD and it’s delivered by Alu’s keening soprano with such aching and despair that I know there’s more behind this tune than Alu let on. It’s one of several great tunes from her underrated album, Lobotomy Sessions.

7 Agnes Obel – Riverside
The Danish born singer recorded a heartbreaking song about the ebb, flow and emotional turmoil of life’s currents. Obel brings her lilting, slightly slurred soprano to bear on lyrics of memory and loss.  Singing over a spare cyclical piano riff, she deftly layers her voice into plaintive harmonies that will have you swimming in her bittersweet stream.  Her debut, Philharmonics,  was the Echoes CD of the Month in January of 2012.

Gnarls-Odd-Couple8 Gnarls Barkley “Going On”
This may be the most anomalous track on this list. Gnarls Barkley made some crazed R&B that was retro-soul in its melodies, sung by Cee Lo Green, and futuristic in its arrangements from Danger Mouse.  “Crazy” is their massive hit, but I always loved this hyper-kinetic leaving song from The Odd Couple album with Cee Lo’s manic rap-inflected melody, the stop time rhythm and the gothic freak-out at the end.

Dandys-Earth9 Dandy Warhols – “The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers A.K.A. the Ballad of Sheriff Shorty”
This is a hyped-up mix of Country-Jitterbug-New Orleans Voodoo psychedelia from Earth to Dandy Warhols. Courtney Taylor-Taylor rips it up in this hipster-jiving ode to speed and trucking, “jacked up on java and nicotine.”  I can’t get it out of my head. Check out this great video and it will be embedded in your head as well.

Beck-Modern10 Beck – “Chemtrails
Beck’s “Chemtrails” from his 2008 album Modern Guilt has one of those Pachelbel-style hooks that could go on forever. The song starts as a lament and turns in to an anthem of deep despair for humanity, while still somehow maintaining hope using chemtrail conspiracy theories as a metaphor.  I saw him do a great version of it with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra at the Bowl that year and it stayed in my head thereafter despite the assholes sitting behind me. Even the pointless coda doesn’t ruin it.

John Diliberto’s 10 Best Songs of the New Millennium Spotify Playlist

John Diliberto (((echoes)))

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New Agnes Obel Video-The Curse

August 20, 2013
Agnes Obel Live on Echoes

Agnes Obel Live on Echoes

Danish singer Agnes Obel finally has a new album coming in October.  Here’s a beautiful video and song that shows she’s continuing the beauty of her debut,  Philharmonics.  Her new album is Aventine  and here’s a song from it, “The Curse.”

John Diliberto (((echoes)))
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Agnes Obel leads Philly Concerts This Week.

June 10, 2011

Concerts You Should See in Philly This Week

Henry Threadgill performed a nice, if overly cerebral set in the second of Ars Novas AACM series.  He showed you can still be out there and hit a groove.  I just wish he did it more often.

Dustin O’Halloran-He fought bar noise, fire engines and freight trains to bring a set of delicate ambient chamber music to life, even with a slightly tacky upright piano.

Zoe Keating-Mesmerizing set of looping cello works and charming stage patter.  We had her in the studio the next day and you should hear that in July!

*****Agnes Obel*****
Roscoe Mitchell
Joan LaBarbara

*******THIS WEEK*********

Friday June 10 5PM
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The iconic avant-garde singer  performs Morton Feldman’s Three Voices.  A rare opportunity to hear one of the amazing voices and vocal conceptualists of our time.

Ars Nova
is having a blowout of seminal artists from the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, or less cumbersomely, the AACM.  This is where the soul of the Ars Nova Workshop resides, in the sounds generated in the 1960s and 70s by musicians creating new paradigms for jazz.  It spans two weekends in different venues.  All worth catching to discover music that’s exhilarating and exploratory.

Roscoe Mitchell

Saturday, June 11, 2011 – 8:00pm
German Society of Pennsylvania’s Barthelmes Auditorium
611 Spring Garden Street
This could also be one of the best in Ars Nova’s AACM series.  The Art Ensemble of Chicago veteran brings in musicians like saxophonist Evan Parker and vocalist Thomas Buckner along with the S.E.M. Ensemble, a large avant-garde performance unit.  Go To Ars Nova for More.

Sunday, June 12, 2011 – 8:00pm
Settlement Music School416 Queen Street
Philadelphia, PA
Mitchell returns the next night with an entirely different group that includes Hugh Ragin, on trumpet and guitarist Spencer Barefield.   Mitchell can create music that is maddeningly cerebral or joyfully ecstatic. Go to Ars Nova for more.
Monday, June 13, 2011 – 8:00pm
The Maas Building1325 Randolph Street
Philadelphia, PA
The Maas Building1325 Randolph Street

Note the phrasing.  Threadgill won’t be at this one.  His music will be performed by the Collide Saxophone Quartet.

Weds. June 15
Tin Angel
I am still enthralled with Agnes Obel 6 months after making her album, Philharmonics an Echoes CD of the Month.  We had her live on the show this year and she’s a performer who draws you into her intimate chamber songs.  This is a rare chance to hear this Danish gem live in Philly. Check out my review of this haunting CD.

Monday June 20
Sellersville Theater
British prog rockers back from the dead to relive the daze of “Easy Livin'”

Electric Violin Ragas Bow at the Top of Echoes

April 28, 2011

Vicki Richards’ She Vanishes Appears at the Head of Echoes Top 25 for April.

The Echoes Top 25 for April is up and as usual, our CD of the Month’s tops the list and justifiably so.  Vicki Richards’ She Vanishes is an impressive album that brings the early fusion sound into a new stage. In case you have possibly missed this release, check out a review and listen to complete tracks.

It’s great to see Lia Ices at the top.  It’s rare that a singer-songwriter gets that high on the list, but we’ve had a couple this year including Agnes Obel who clocks in right behind at #3, three months after she was number 1 with her January CD of the Month, Philharmonics.  If you were a member of the Echoes CD of the Month Club, you’d have these great albums in your collection already and would be awaiting our May CD of the Month, Moby‘s Destroyed, 2 weeks before official release date.

Check out the rest of the Echoes Top 25 to see what music filled our airwaves & web-waves in April.

John Diliberto ((( echoes ))) 

Lia Ices’ Mythological Music.

April 2, 2011

Lia Ices is a singer-songwriter from New York with a singular vocal style, melodies that linger and lyrics that provoke. I saw her last night at Johnny Brenda’s in Philadelphia and just finished a late morning Echoes session with the singer-songwriter at The Music Centre in Exton, PA.   Both were fantastic and I can’t wait for you to hear her Echoes Living Room Concert.  Her sophomore album, Grown Unknown, joins Agnes Obel‘s Philharmonics as one of the most compelling and distinctive song cycles of 2011.

Lia Ices and Echoes John Diliberto

Many of her songs merge lost love, mythological figures and nature metaphors.  You can see a couple of them here.  Lia Ices and her band are currently  on tour.  Lia Ices’ Echoes performance and interview should run late April and early May.  Meanwhile, watch & listen:

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Echoes in the Media

March 18, 2011

Echoes has popped up in a few places recently.

Agnes Obel’s Philharmonics was our January CD of the Month, and we’re quoted in an article on the Danish singer in Time Magazine.

And, back in 1984, I interviewed Malcolm Cecil, one half of the synthesizer duo, Tonto’s Expanding Headband.  Their 1972 album, Zero Time, was a seminal recording of electronic space music.  The interview was originally used in the radio series Totally Wired and was printed in Keyboard Magazine.   That article appears in a new book called Synth Gods.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Echoes Top 25 for January

February 3, 2011

Agnes Obel’s Philharmonics Heads Echoes Top 25 for January

Ambient chamber music is big on January’s Top 25.  Agnes Obel leads it with her delicately serene and haunting debut, Philharmonics, which sets her voice in a chamber bed of piano and cello.  I’m sure this album will be in my Top 5 at the end of the year.  (read review and listen to tracks here)Also in the Top 10 is Olafur Arnald’s And They Will Escape the Weight of Darkness.  It came out the middle of last year but only just found its way to Echoes.  Arnald’s mixes  spare, minimalist piano melodies with a string quartet and subtle electronics on this album of emotionally precise and devastating music.  It’s a perfect twin for Obel’s Philharmonics.    Straight electronic ambiences can be heard in David Arkenstone’s Ambient World.  It’s our Echoes CD of the Month for February. And another great album from Ultimae climbs into the Top 5, Asura’s 360.

You can see the complete Echoes Top 25 for January 2011.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Echoes January CD of the Month Agnes Obel – Philharmonics.

December 31, 2010

Minimalist songs of melancholy from Denmark with Echoes January CD of the Month
Agnes Obel – Philharmonics

Hear Agnes Obel playing live on Echoes Friday 10/07/11

From the first nursery rhyme piano solo, “Falling, Catching” to the last breathy vocal of “On Powdered Ground,” Agnes Obel’s debut album, Philharmonics,  has captured my melancholy midwinter mood like no other.  If only for the second track, “Riverside,”  the Danish born singer will be in your head forever on first listening.  A heartbreaking song about the ebb, flow and emotional turmoil of life’s currents, Obel brings her lilting, slightly slurred soprano to bear on lyrics of memory and loss.  Singing over a spare cyclical piano riff, she deftly layers her voice into plaintive harmonies that will have you swimming in her bittersweet stream.  And so goes all of Philharmonics, a subtlety powerful and singular debut.

Now living in Germany, Agnes Obel has that ethereal, mournful sound we’ve come to know and love from Nordic singers like Anna Ternheim and Emiliana Torrini.  Her songs have a stark simplicity with almost childlike accompaniment, but like Yann Tiersen’s Amélie score, there is depth and portent between those spare, melancholy notes.  Obel plays keyboards and guitar, deploying them in zen minimalist canons across slow moving cellos.

Obel’s lyrics are ambiguously oblique, approaching her subjects from odd angles like the coy “Beast,” a song of pursuit and abandon that will have you hitting repeat to glimpse its curious and addictive chorus.

One sign of a true artist is when they can take someone else’s song and make it wholly their own.  That’s the case with “Close Watch,” a cover of John Cale’s “I Keep A Close Watch.”  Over what sounds like a prepared piano or muted guitar, Obel builds this poignant work from yearning to heroic with the contrapuntal choirs of her voice.

Philharmonics is peppered with a handful of instrumentals like “Louretta” with a circus electronic keyboard sound that could fit in a John Carpenter Halloween score until Obel brings in piano and makes it haunting rather than frightening. That theme continues into “Avenue” a song about wrong choices we make, even when we know they are wrong.

Philharmonics takes a symphonic name, and it sits comfortably among a new generation of ambient chamber musicians like Ludovico Einaudi, Tim Story and Nico Muhly, not to mention Steve Reich and Michael Nyman.  It’s only January, but Agnes Obel’s Philharmonics is already simply the most beautiful album of the year.

Right now, Philharmonics is only available on iTunes in the US.  But Echoes CD of the Month Club members will be receiving some of the few physical CD copies in the country.  We’ll be featuring Agnes Obel’s Philharmonics on Echoes Monday, January 3 and the following weekend.

Hear Agnes Obel playing live on Echoes Friday 10/07/11.  You can stream it free from Echoes affiliate stations or catch it on demand with Echoes On-Line.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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