Villagers – {Awayland} (Domino)

Villagers – {Awayland} (Domino)

The expectations for a former Mercury Music Prize nominee to deliver a more crafted second album is higher than most. Two and a half years on from his debut, Conor O’Brien, a.k.a. Villagers, releases his, an album that shows an artist delving deeper in search for answers and with a greater lust for spiritual discovery.

We pick up where we left off on {Awayland} with those notable soft touches on the nylons of an acoustic guitar and recognisable articulate vocals. Through the warm harmonies in ‘My Lighthouse’, this time provided by the band, emerges a nautical theme that is evident throughout this album and indicates O’Brien’s coastal hometown as an influence on this record. The involvement of the band extends beyond backing vocals and in ‘Earthly Pleasure’ and ‘Grateful Song’ we see the benefit their inclusion has had on the writing, in particular the orchestral arrangements, exhibiting a more collective feel to the Villagers name.

An array of influences are apparent on {Awayland}, all of which help to reinforce meaning and give greater depth to the album; from the use of electronic devices such as percussive synth sounds and lyrical repetition in ‘The Waves’ that help exemplify the repetitive nature of the sea, to the pure harmonies and delicate instrumentation of title track {Awayland} that create one of the most beautiful musical landscapes on the album. Also captured on {Awayland} is an exploratory feel that is heard in the twenty second A Day In The Life-like psychedelic orchestral section that ends ‘Judgement Call’ and precedes Indie-pop single ‘Nothing Arrived’, and in dynamic track ‘The Bell’ where Villagers experiment with Peter Gunn-style horn parts, Hammond organ and rhythmic lyricism.

O’Brien states {Awayland} is about “reclaiming that sense of curiosity and wonder which we have when we are children and we often lose over the years”; no better is this theme highlighted than with ‘Passing A Message’ and ‘In A Newfound Land You Are Free ‘, where in the former he sings “baby steps from the ocean, feathered trails to the sea… I’m losing my trail here, but it takes loss to be free”. However, constant use of contradicting phrases elsewhere on the album and lyrical poetry that explores paradoxical outlooks on life implies this reclamation to be more of a tool for re-discovery and answers.

If Villagers first album possessed a sense of growing-up, wanting to take action and a search for freedom, {Awayland} explores where Villagers are now. Having been on the road for two years with the likes of Neil Young and Fleet Foxes they are now looking toward what’s next, and in order to do so are first re-discovering the past. In doing so Villagers have a created a more considered album filled with expansive soundscapes that encapsulates the imagery of home for O’Brien, thus exploring the past, whilst talking of natural and repetitive elements such as the ocean which represents the constant.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.