Agnes Obel has an obvious minimalist style indicated by her previous two albums, which is why the opening song Stretch Your Eyes feels unlike anything she has done before. The use of dramatic strings and Middle Eastern vibes over her preferred, and sometimes over-reliant, use of piano is haunting and thought-provoking. This excitement stretches on to the next couple of songs and in particular Familiar, where the melody is less obvious, the listener never knowing where the song will go but eventually it settled to something of beauty.
It’s then extremely disappointing to realise that it wasn’t long before Citizen of Glass goes back to her predictable and unadventurous piano style in the second half of the album, that too with weak choruses. Songs like Trojan Horse and Mary really are uninspired variations on songs from Philharmonics; later, we’re faced with the staid title track which can only be described as nothing more than an eerie children’s nursery rhyme. If there’s any difference between these songs and her previous work, it’s the manipulation of her vocals in a more interesting choral style.
The first half of Citizen of Glass is extremely promising as Agnes Obel is experimenting with a different style of music, but it’s a shame that there’s no dogged pursuit of this new direction. If Citizen of Glass is reflective of its title in any way, it’s to say that Obel may well have become too transparent for her own good.