Album Review: Villagers – {Awayland}

By on Wednesday, 30th January 2013 at 12:00 pm

Villagers Awayland coverPacked full of surprising basslines, crisp vocals and acoustic guitars aplenty, ‘{Awayland}’ is Villagers‘ second album. Their 2010 debut album ‘Becoming a Jackal’ was nominated for awards left, right and centre. Lauded for being both charming and low-key, can Conor O’Brien and his band of merry Irishmen maintain the success they achieved with their first LP?

The entire record features a mix of influences; ‘Passing a Message’ is a horn section away from ‘Belle and Sebastian’ circa 2003, and the title track ‘{Awayland}’ sounds like an axed instrumental from Love’s 1967 album ‘Forever Changes’. It’s also great to hear more of an input from the backing band who seem to have taken a back seat in the past. Tracks such as ‘My Lighthouse’ feature heavenly harmonies and it makes for one of the best tracks on the album.

The vocals are hit and miss throughout the record. On the one hand, O’Brien’s voice is beautiful throughout and fits perfectly with the overall tone of the album, however on tracks like ‘Passing a Message’, ‘Rhythm Composer’ and ‘Earthly Pleasures’, the half-speaking, half-singing vocals are slightly too laid back and start to become dull. O’Brien’s rhyming style on the latter track coupled with this speak-singing just seems to remind me of an uninterested recital of a Dr. Seuss book. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate spoken singing, or sprechgesung as Google tells me it’s called, from bands like Cake, but O’Brien doesn’t have the same smooth flow that vocalists such as John McCrea has.

It’s great to see Villagers attempting to stretch out their artistic wings, however I can’t help but feel it doesn’t work on the lead single from the album, ‘The Waves’. Backed by a morse code beat reminiscent of Swedish electronic duo The Knife, it’s one of the weakest songs on ‘{Awayland}’. It is definitely worth Youtubing a live performance of the track though. I’ve seen stripped down video which consists solely of O’Brien at the mic with his acoustic guitar and a moustache-laden gentleman on the piano. It’s at least thirty times better than the album version. I have heard multiple times that Conor O’Brien and company put on a killer live show; this is perfect news for British fans as they are touring next month throughout the United Kingdom. The LP has also been doing the rounds on the radio and was the 6 Music Album of the Day last week.

Overall, the band have followed up their acclaimed debut album with a record that retains the sensitive crooning that earned them their Mercury Prize nod back in 2010, but also attempts to branch out and incorporate new and interesting styles into their music. It may not be all there at the moment, but I have high hopes for the third album.


‘{Awayland}’, the second album from Villagers, is out now on Domino Records. The band are on tour in the UK in February and March.

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[…] to 2013. O’Brien and crew released last year their sophomore effort on Domino Records, ‘{Awayland}’, this past January, and everyone wanted a piece of them. (We tried to get Martin into their […]

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