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Album Review

Villagers
{Awayland} Domino

Article written by Sam C - Jan 20, 2013

villagers
As Connor O’Brien took stock of his lot and started to consider his options for the follow up to his debut album “Becoming A Jackall” surely even he must have been a little surprised as to its success. Mercury Prize Nominated, critically acclaimed and a thoroughly accomplished, mature album of beautifully phrased, articulate folk songs, all delivered in his carefully measured vocal style, it should have been an underground phenomenon but it crashed onto daytime Radio 1 and Jools Holland in a way I don’t think anyone outside of Domino Records expected.

The follow up the oddly punctuated {Awayland} came with something he hadn’t perhaps experienced before great expectations. Clearly O’Brien and his ever beefier sounding band aren’t afraid of a challenge. Lyrically there are signs of great progression, he’s always been a great storyteller (see the non-album track Cecelia and her Selfhood for a stunning example of this) but his world view is getting broader. Here as well as the usual songs about troubled relationships we see him hurl barbed quips in the direction of bankers (“Earthly Pleasures” rallying call again “Beelzebub is in our banks”) and politicians inaction regarding climate change (In The Waves he talks of “Honeybee Cemeteries” and challenges the listener with the repeated line “what are you gonna do?”) It’s no dour manifesto though as O’Brien has a way with words, light of touch and fascinating throughout. There’s something of Nick Cave in his words that mix great intellect with a sense of humour missing from so many over earnest troubadours (don’t get me started on Frank Turner)

The other major change from the debut is a new sense of adventure in the arrangements , notably the genuinely terrifying outro of “The Waves” with its blazing electronics, crashing drums and a feeling you too might be engulfed by the sea…it’s stunning! On occasions such as “Rhythm Composer” he perhaps goes a bit too far for some, it’s verging on bonkers. Starting off a jaunty little numbers that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Disney soundtrack, it then slams on the break with a breakdown that resembles an 80s kids TV theme tune, before giving way to Saxophone, electronics beats and raps the whole thing up with what sounds a lot like a rather unhappy farmyard animal. The whole thing would make a fine exercise in instrument counting for a primary school music lesson. Thankfully for fans of the debut Villagers still find time for some beautifully stripped back numbers from the heartfelt Piano ballad “In A New Found Land You Are Free” to the instrumental title track it’s a wonderfully crafted thing. All in all it’s a fabulous album by a band at the top of their game, gently pushing boundaries and doing thing you never thought you’d hear them do.

Links:
http://www.wearevillagers.com
http://www.myspace.com/villagers

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