Studio Album by released in 2013

{Awayland} review

Villagers, new heroes of Ireland

A hangover-stricken morning in most cases brings nothing good for the day to come, but, as always, this rule has exceptions. Irish musician Connor O’Brien, for example, after a hangover awakening wrote a song that became the opening chapter to his most famous formation, Villagers. Back then, he could hardly suppose that the new project would soon be nominated for Mercury Prize for the brilliant debut album Becoming A Jackal (2010). Spurred by this success, the band embarked on extensive tours, representing Ireland at numerous international festivals, but the release of a sophomore album was postponed until an indefinite time. Three years later, the Villagers discography eventually spawned another long player, {Awayland}, the one that was supposed to meet sky-high demands. First of all, the band’s fans were going to compare it with the debut effort, and, of course, they all hoped for this comparison to end up in favor of the later release.

{Awayland}: riot of music colors

However, comparing {Awayland} and Becoming A Jackal will not be that easy. And one reason is that on their second album, Villagers sound more like a real band rather than a solo project of the indisputable star and leader, Connor O’Brien. He, definitely, remains the central figure in the collective, and his gloomy, agitated lyrics, channeled by his nervous, ready to burst into a hysterical laughter or scream, voice, are the foundation for the ensemble. Nevertheless, Connor displays no more of that youth who demands attention and gets angry when his fears, unrest and other emotional states are not comprehended by others. {Awayland} is just as grasping in terms of music, which, beyond all doubt, is more interesting than that of the previous record by Villagers. Whereas the opening My Lighthouse demonstrates basically the same approach that was before, Earthly Pleasure invades the cleanness of the sound, the order of harmonies with a variety of noises, creaks, whistles and other sounds. The Waves, too, openly applies the entire arsenal of the means at the band’s disposal, from combustible synths to biting electric guitars, but the outcome is inevitable: it’s a highlight of the album.

Villagers is a darkish indie rock

This uncontrolled outburst of music on {Awayland} walks hand in hand with the lyrics and vocals of Connor who has grown more aggressive. Some particular fragments of the texts even look like clips of horror literature. Grateful Song is about a god of pain, deceit, tragedy and hatred. The aforementioned My Lighthouse pictures a skinned corpse (thank God, of a ghost), and In A Newfound Land You Are Free gives hints that the just born child is going to die. The lyrics like that, accompanied by a mind-blowing piano passage, made this ballad one of the most powerful pieces in this set. You can catch your breath after an avalanche of menacing images and overwhelming energy of musical instruments only during the title track {Awayland}, some kind of a time-out in this tiring game. It could be that when it plays you come to a realization that the time of the young, immature and fragile Villagers is gone. These Villagers are strong and desperate, and the music they play is a great weapon. Indie rock has shown yet another of its faces, a mysterious, mystique and tragic one, and thus irresistible.