Villagers - {Awayland} (2013)


VILLAGERS {Awayland}

01. My Lighthouse
02. Earthly Pleasure03. The Waves
04. Judgement Call
05. Nothing Arrived
06. The Bell
07. {Awayland}
08. Passing a Message
09. Grateful Song
10. In a Newfound Land You Are Free
11. Rhythm Composer


At the beginning of this century, some shy and extremely talented songwriter managed to conquer both, indie- and folk-audiences, with his melancholic, yet, brilliant lyricism and a flair for mass compatible folk-rock. Of course, it is Conor Oberst’s BRIGHT EYES of whom we speak about here. Far beyond the ever-annoying “emo”-tag accompanying his success, he delivered some of the best songs written in those days. Cut. Ten years had passed since BRIGHT EYES’ early masterpieces like Fevers and Mirrors or Lifted when, out of nowhere, an Irish fella, named Conor O’ Brien aka VILLAGERS, delivered his Mercury Prize-nominated debut album Becoming A Jackal in 2010. Lyrically captivating and with a great sense for composing intimate moments full of musical variety, O’Brien became something like the new wunderkind of songwriting. Thus, with his second full-length entitled {Awayland} there is a fair chance to belie expectations – unless you consider accepting a little help from your friends.

Consequently, {Awayland} appears to be a far more collective effort. Though, O’Brien remains to be the one who mainly writes the songs, the musicians he worked with since his debut-success became a far more important influence when developing his ideas into brightly coloured paintings. There is Earthly Pleasure with its spoken-word approach layering great lyricism above rhythmic guitars, synth-foundations and hints of swelling string arrangements. Contrasting the even more rhythm-based kraut-progression of The Waves, leading from dreamy ambient into abyssal noise.

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O’Brien and his crew manage to create a mesmerizing stream of consciousness throughout the whole record, travelling smoothly from experimental elements to hit-single’s Nothing Arrived clear indie-rock while, on their way, delivering somber statements full of fierce wisdom as if LEONARD COHEN himself took posession of O’Brien’s pen: “I waited for something/ and something died/ so I waited for nothing/ and nothing arrived”. Still, although a lot of the lyricism found on {Awayland} is built around gloomy imagery, every second on it keeps up a distinct amount of hope. O’Brien, who once sang about selling us his fears, turned into a soothing voice of reason in a messy world of disbelief, celebrating fantasy and the power of escapism in dealing with daily despair: “naked on the toilet with a toothbrush in his mouth/ when he suddenly acquired an overwhelming sense of doubt” – O’Brien sings, not without a smile on his face.

{Awayland} not only manages to keep up with high expectations, it takes an impressive step further towards a very own concept of what sensible, intelligent pop music is able to achieve. Is there anything more one could have hoped for from VILLAGERS’ second attempt? Not really. A magnificent piece of work by the man who turned into a band.

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folk / singer/songwriter
from Ireland