Villagers: Awayland

Fri, Jan 4, 2013, 00:00





Awayland  *****

Their debut album, Becoming a Jackal, transported Conor O’Brien and his band of rapscallions to many places. Awayland may not have been the destination on the front of the bus when the adventures began in 2010, but it’s where they ended up. It is somewhere you, also, will want to visit.Awayland is the staging post for O’Brien’s most colourful, articulate and emotive songs to date, all coated in glorious textures, detailed flourishes and graceful ebbs and flows. It is full of ambition and brio, in which O’Brien’s onwards and upwards trajectory is truly something to behold.

Of course, the new highs will come as no surprise to those who’ve followed O’Brien’s star. From his days with The Immediate, the Irish pace-setters who got away, to his work as Cathy Davey’s guitar-playing sidekick and on to setting up shop with Villagers, O’Brien has progressed at every stage.

Still, for all that pedigree and form, there are still moments here which will take your breath away. The beautiful songcraft that O’Brien has long employed has never been so on point.

Earthly Pleasure is Coleridge-like in its stream-of-consciousness flow, filling your mind with exotic creatures at work and play. The album is bookended by the emotional, delicately drawn pair of My Lighthouse and In a Newfound Land You Are Free, further proof of O’Brien’s poignancy and poise as a writer.

Musically, too, Villagers have moved on.

Awayland is full of smashing noises and melodies, from the boho-tronic wash of The Waves to the thrilling peaks of The Bell. Surprises await at every turn, rendering all past associations null and void.

An album to treasure and adore and which sets the bar very high for the rest of 2013.

Download:Earthly Pleasure, The Bell, In a Newfound Land You Are Free, The Waves