Villagers: {Awayland} – review


Conor O'Brien picked up a Mercury nomination for his band's debut, Becoming a Jackal, and an Ivor Novello for the title track. Expectations for Villagers' follow-up won't be dampened by the 28-year-old Irishman's suggestion that the key influences are Nick Drake, Curtis Mayfield and Slaughterhouse 5 author Kurt Vonnegut. O'Brien certainly has enough literary imagery to suggest he could have been a writer. Earthly Pleasure is a compelling fantasy about a man who starts off "naked on the toilet with a toothbrush in his mouth", is taken by his imagination to the Brazilian war of independence and ends up meeting God. Throughout, killer, thought-provoking lines abound: "There are waves up in the sky, stronger than you and I." However, the dazzling imagery comes with a rollercoasting voyage through acoustic soul, brass and – a new development – electronica. Drake's gentle, ghostly hand is most audible in the damaged beauty of the title track and depression-conquering Rhythm Composer. The soaring Waves and joyful, piano-led Waterboysy stomp of Nothing Arrived may be the best Villagers tunes to date.


Dave Simpson

The GuardianTramp

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