Review

WAIT, THIS IS ACTUALLY KINDA GOOD // Villagers – Awayland Review

Ask me a few months ago to list the dullest bands I could think of and Villagers would doubtless have featured prominently. Provided I could remember they exist that is, which is pretty difficult when you have virtually nothing to distinguish yourselves from an hour of silence. They were up there with The XX in terms of listenability, and I think The XX are like listening to paint dry.

What I’m trying to say here is that I wasn’t a fan. I couldn’t understand how anyone even could be a fan. I couldn’t even understand how people could pay attention long enough to write reviews on them, never mind the glowing ones that seemed to crawl out of every corner.

On {Awayland} that’s changed.

I’m not saying Villagers are now Animal Collective-esque experimentalists but at least they’re doing something interesting for a change. Whilst before I would have struggled to stay awake long enough to try and convey their sound now they actually well, have one. And a much fuller one at that, with things happening and elements colliding and songs going places, seemingly vital aspects of music that I’m nonetheless stunned they’ve actually incorporated now. That’s the level they were operating at for me prior to their latest release; nothing even close to listenable sounds seemed to come out of them. Only now am I starting to see the much lauded interchange between eerie disquiet and driving folk that drew comparisons with Grizzly Bear when they first showed up, comparisons that seemed hopelessly misguided upon actually listening to Becoming A Jackal.

I say them but really the heart of Villagers is frontman and creative core Conor O’Brien. Where his previous effort was pretty tame, one note stuff, his sophomore outing is much more confident and diverse. The synth inflected scope of ‘The Waves’, perhaps the song that best demonstrates the step up and out Villagers have made and where O’Brien’s bold imagery come most powerfully to the fore, is worlds apart from the gentle, Fleet Foxes-esque title track, all strings and gently plucked guitar. It’s still not without dull moments and O’Brien’s lyrics aren’t compelling enough to carry the slow-down however. But really I’m too stunned by the highs to care about the lows, especially on an album as cohesive yet bold as {Awayland} is.

It’s a step rather than a leap in the right direction but one that nonetheless hints at a band that could be going to very interesting places. That it means Ireland finally has a new act worthy of pride(The Script don’t count) helps too. Am I fan now, I ask as I listen to ‘The Waves’ yet again? Yes, I guess I am. Or at least I’m now keeping an ear open for future developments. And they’re off my list too.

A-

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2 thoughts on “WAIT, THIS IS ACTUALLY KINDA GOOD // Villagers – Awayland Review

    • I don’t think I’d have rated it as highly were it not for the surprise factor. I went in with literally zero expectations and spent the rest of the time attempting to hoist my jaw from the floor. And yeah that video is just ridiculous, shades of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Which is the best kind of shade.

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