Album review: Villagers, {Awayland}

By Graham Reid

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{Awayland} album cover by Villagers. Photo / Supplied
{Awayland} album cover by Villagers. Photo / Supplied

If there was an issue with multi-instrumentalist Conor O'Brien's otherwise excellent 2010 solo debut album Becoming a Jackal (under his nom de disque Villagers) it was that he repeatedly wrote as a universal, wisdom-infused observer, the all-seeing "I" as it were. This more sonically expansive outing - former pop-rocker and sometime folkie embraces electronics, horns, strings - adopts a less authoritative voice and more emotionally engaged if intellectual tone. Coupling memorable melodies and lyrics with subtle arrangements, this fulfils all the promise of that debut (which was shortlisted for the UK's Mercury and Choice awards, and won the Ivor Novello songwriting award for its title track).

Songs here allude to incomplete fill-the-gaps narratives (the time-shifting urgency of Earthly Pleasures) and hard-edge images abound as much as suggestions of metaphysical (and zoological) ideas, and they often soar - as with Nothing Arrived - on uplifting pop melodies. Or race on the back of propulsive beats (the melodramatic The Bell). There are also pastoral passages and, in Newfound Land, a lullaby-cum-meditation.

O'Brien's gently enunciated vocals carry everything, and the diverse but coherent {Awayland} is one of this year's early keepers and growers.

Stars: 4.5/5
Verdict: Irish clever-clogs steps up and outward with engrossing second album

- TimeOut / elsewhere.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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