x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Villagers Awayland

In his new album, the Irish singer Conor O'Brien adopts a lyrical tone full of wide-eyed wonder.

Villagers
Awayland
Domino
****

Few UK listeners had ever heard of Villagers when their debut album, Becoming a Jackal, was shortlisted for the prestigious Mercury Prize in 2010.

Initially a solo vessel for the quirky talents of the Irish singer-songwriter Conor O'Brien, the set-up has evolved into more of a traditional band for this second album, although O'Brien's vision remains free of restrictive compromise.

In Awayland he experiments with electronic beats and sweeping strings while also actively adopting a lyrical tone full of wide-eyed wonder. There are novel odes to a young child ("So viciously free, so careless and wild, but the eyes of a saint and the soul of a thief") and even to the merits of a dance music producer on the curious lullaby Rhythm Composer, which closes the album with a burst of saxophone, some minimal techno and what sounds like a braying donkey.

While often eccentrically innovative, this record radiates radio-friendly accessibility, particularly via the rollicking, Arcade Fire-like Nothing Arrived, and the beautifully crafted The Bell.