Ghosts are ever-present in Agnes Obel’s music. Even when not explicitly mentioned, it can still feel like spirits are inhabiting every note of her piano and syllable that exits her lips. ‘Haunted’ isn’t the right word, as the Danish singer-songwriter seems more inspired by the past than burdened by it. Her music is like gothic romance that leans more towards romance. On the latest installment of the Late Night Tales compilation series, Obel weaves together an impressive array of tracks, showing deference to different eras and countries.

Just staring down the artist/track roster of Obel’s compilation can be cause for curiosity. How will Henry Mancini’s skulking Touch of Evil theme be able to kick things off without feeling like a film has been interrupted upon Roger Webb’s moody wonder, ‘Moonbird” arriving? Why are Can and Nina Simone so late in the album? How do Yello, most famed for their Ferris Bueller association, tie into all this?

If there are any such doubts, they should be dashed around the time Lee Hazelwood offers spoken-word narration of the forbidden romance between a white woman and a Native American man on ‘The Nights.’ Obel’s compilation is one that makes it easy to forget you’re listening to artists who recorded decades and thousands of miles apart from one another. Save for a couple moments of clumsy crossfades, Obel effectively justifies each track’s presence.

Running 20 tracks long and less than an hour in length, Late Night Tales allows Obel to share her tastes as appetizers/amuse-bouches rather than heavy entrees. Though her classically-tinged mood pieces are indebted to the past, no one track sounds explicitly like her (save for, of course, the four that she herself performed). You could imagine her covering the Ray Davies demo, ‘I Go To Sleep’ but having difficulties honouring Davies’ melancholy without feeling redundant, or ‘The End,’ but realizing the hiss and mournfully plucked guitar of Sibylle Baier’s recording is just right as is.

The songs Obel has selected are economical, but not ones whose main selling point is that they’re ‘no-frills.’ These artists have little to hide behind, but they also have no reason to hide. Should this be an indirect plea from Obel for more attention to be paid to artists who do a lot with a little, she makes a strong case. She’s not phobic of experimentation (like on electronic music pioneer Lena Platono’s hypnotic ‘Bloody Shadows From Afar’) or more contemporary artists (like on Michelle Guvernich’s clenched teeth-and-fist slowcore number ‘Party Girl’).

Delving into the backstories of some of these artists enriches the listening experience. ‘Eden’s Island’ isn’t formed enough to satisfy in a vacuum, but the story of eden ahbez, a hippie who wrote Nat King Cole a chart-topping hit in ‘Nature Boy’ lend it further pathos. Similarly, the wonderful ‘Aleluia’ by Brazilian girl group Quarteto em Cy (along with Tamba Trio) is made all the more wonderful knowing the group has been performing (in different iterations) since 1959.

Obel's Late Night Tales celebrates female voices, both in the messages they relay and how they relay them. Some of the most impactful tracks here are completely acapella. ‘Pilentze Pee (Pilentze Sings)’ by The Bulgarian State Radio & Television Female Choir has a suite of tones working towards a common goal. Nina Simone’s live rendition of William Waring Cuney’s poem ‘No Images’ makes it almost unfathomable to imagine the words coming from anyone but her.

One of the acapella contributions is from Obel, vocals extracted from Quiet Village’s remix of her track ‘Stretch Your Eyes’ (which does explicitly mention ghosts). In an NPR interview about her track selections for this compilation, Obel had the least to say about this track, explaining that Late Night Tales manager Paul Glancy suggested it. Surrounding this humbleness about her own talents is all sorts of praise for the artists surrounding her, past and present. Obel doesn’t front with any sort of false modesty, but instead indicates she’s eager to learn from as many sources as possible. She’s already proven herself an artist of great talent. With Late Night Tales, she proves herself one of great taste.