Villagers – {Awayland}

Villagers – {Awayland}

Probably the first time people became aware of Villagers was when lead singer and band founder Conor O’Brien addressed the audience of Jools Holland in April 2010. Despite vying for attention amongst the likes of Hot Chip and Paul Weller, O’Brien’s reedy voice, quivering eyelids and heavy Irish brow immediately stole the show. Three months later and on the back of topping the Irish album charts, Villagers lost out on the Mercury Prize, drowning in a sea of established artists and The xx.

It seems Villagers’ inability (or perhaps reticence) to break into the mainstream of the UK music scene stems from their peculiar formation.  At times they are a one man show, O’Brien steering their ship of promises with quietly beautiful lyrics and a gentle performing style.  Elsewhere they appear as a five-piece, slowly building up audiences into cymbal driven cacophonies. As such, it is impossible to view them as a singularity and O’Brien falls short of capturing the crooning revelry currently surrounding the likes of Ben Howard.

The primary revelation upon listening to {Awayland} is that Villagers have become a band.  Opening track ‘My Lighthouse’ offers a soothing bassy drone akin to Becoming a Jackal‘s ‘Pieces’, gently moving the pace up with the beep driven ‘The Waves’.  Elsewhere the instrumental and eponymously titled ‘Awayland’ offers a soothing highlight in pleasant collaboration with the surprisingly cheerful ‘Grateful’.  However, as much as {Awayland} shows the all important desire to change, hints of the album are reminiscent of an acoustic Caribou, it seems to lack the ingredient that brought tinges of Becoming a Jackal into brilliance – songwriting.

{Awayland} is an undeniably good album and a better piece of overall work than its predecessor, but is without the vulnerability and warmth that established them as an abstract alternative to the love song dominated world of male-fronted, acoustic music.


Milo Boyd