Villagers – {Awayland}

Albums / Words

14 Jan 13

Mark Kermode, amongst much Oscar and BAFTA hype surrounding Sam Mendes’
Revolutionary Road, said that it would be far more interesting for a movie to depict the lives
of a happy couple in the 1950s: that, in fact, would be true innovation.

The novice of the perpetually unhappy is as opaque in effect in ‘Nothing Arrived’, the
first single from Villagers’ second LP, {Awayland}. In the single’s video, Conor O’Brien, of
Villagers, shadows Terence Bliss, a fourty-something singleton who manages, throughout
the course of a video documenting his torrid life, to drum up about as much empathic
response as Osama Bin Laden’s widow.

“I guess I was busy, when nothing came”, O’Brien whimpers, over jazz keys and soft strings,
which add minor oomph to an otherwise tired visual and aural ensemble. A confusing single,
all things considered.

The weird incongruence is that the LP carries some work which is rather strong. Alternative
Folk tendencies are more buoyant, together with some rather fetching half-sung, half-said
lyricisms in ‘Earthly Pleasures’. Elsewhere ‘The Waves’ introduces an electronic glitch beat
which polishes the surrounding brass instrumentation with originality deserved of 2k13

If you need one overriding reason to check out {Awayland}, it’s the donkey samples which
pepper outro track ‘Rhythm Composer’. An obvious choice.

For its anachronistic echoes of grandiose mid-paced, mid-noughties indie, ‘Nothing Arrived’
makes a poor apéritif for Villagers’ new album {Awayland} – which promises subtlety and

Shrieky guitars recalling White Lies and Editors; vocal ascents reminiscent of Chris
Martin: immediate accessibility, however derivative, is not to be sniffed at – but repeated
investment yields only blandness. The video, depicting the desolate life of a middle-
aged single man, is affective though equally unenjoyable when scored by such repetitious

Fortunately for Villagers, this is a lowlight of {Awayland} – a record offering that crucial
modern blend of both imaginative typography and songsmithery. Initial listens suggest the
uneasy dissonance angled at on ‘Nothing Arrived’ is gained far more effectively elsewhere,
so don’t be too deterred.

‘Nothing Arrived’ isn’t just the proclamation I make each morning as I wait for my
book ‘How To Be A Better Citizen’ to appear through the letter box via the hands of the mail
bringer, it’s also the first offering from the Villagers new album Awayland. An album that is
highly anticipated after the critical acclaim of Becoming A Jackal.

With its Western saloon style piano clunking away and guitar-fuelled poetic verses, ‘Nothing
Arrived’ feels like a direct follow on from ‘Becoming A Jackal’.

The lyrics of frontman Conor O’Brien are a key part of the success of The Villagers. ‘Nothing
Arrived’ although bleak and dark in nature, ends up a cathartic experience, just one of those
every day sessions of staring deep into the black endless chasm of life and seeing what
stares back out at you, whilst you wait for the kettle to boil.

In interviews, Conor O’Brien has stated that he had become disillusioned at points with
writing songs using his guitar and was experimenting with creating a more electronic
sound. Though you may not see any fruition of those electronic labours in this track, there
are many moments for this waiting within Awayland, with tracks such as ‘The Waves’
or ‘Rhythm Composer’.

Rumours still persist that Conor O’Brien was born from a brief romance between a wood
fairy and a local taxi driver, (the perfect combination for a singer songwriter) and although
these claims have yet to be substantiated, he certainly is a gifted artist who is trying to
challenge himself and grow as a musician and song smith, and for this I can only tip my hat
to him, knowing the future is bright for The Villagers.