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Wednesday, September 27, 2023


An album to blow you away

By Zachary Burton

If one was to look up Villagers on the Internet, he would be flooded by a deluge of links featuring the band’s front man Conor O’Brien and Conor O’Brien alone. Even the Wikipedia page begins with “Villagers are an Irish band fronted by Conor O’Brien,” truly discrediting the rest of the band. In the great effort that is its second LP titled “{Awayland},” the band deserves just as much of the limelight as sheepish lead O’Brien.

From the start, it seems Villagers will be hugging its roots, with the first track “My Lighthouse” nothing more than a simple but brilliant guitar line featuring multiple tracks of O’Brien’s voice, but by the third number, it is apparent that it’s anything but the truth.

Starting with a morse code-esque rhythm played out on an electric tone, “Waves” sets the style for the rest of the album: a mix of traditional instruments and voices combined with electronic-produced sound and added-in-later effects. It’s not a bad change but blatant in things such as the constantly synthesized piano running in the back of “Judgement Call” or the electronically altered tone of O’Brien’s voice in “Rhythm Composer,” the final track of the record.  Though not all folk touch is gone, as songs like the first single “Nothing Arrived” cling to the natural sound prominent on the band’s first album “Becoming a Jackal.”

At times, this album approaches climax, whether it be through O’Brien’s wandering whisper of lyrics reaching a crescendo or a culmination of all the arrangements finally coming together, but rarely does it fulfill that goal. Many of the tracks on this record suffer from this issue, most painfully though is the case of “The Bell.” Featuring what sounds like a full orchestra behind it, the song builds toward a climax that disappears promptly after it began to take shape.

Above all other things, this album is cerebral. It demands time and careful attention to detail to truly appreciate it. Every listen finds me hearing a new harmony or perplexed at some rhythm I never noticed before. There’s so much going on in every song; it is nearly impossible for one to gather its true depth in one listen. Villagers ambient songs like title-track “{Awayland}” fulfill its duty, and O’Brien’s swooning has lyrics that would leave one wondering. But across the board, this new work teases with its lack of punch.



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