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11 January 2013 Music



Awayland could well be subtitled How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Be in a Band Again. Villagers started as a solo project born out of the sudden 2007 break-up of Conor J O’Brien’s original group, The Immediate. The Irishman actually wrote and recorded the majority of the tracks on Villagers’ debut, Becoming a Jackal (2010), on his own, but that LP’s sonic trappings meant touring required a full band, and it’s those players who now appear here. At first, the differences are hardly felt: O’Brien still possesses the lilting, lyrical take on folk music that made Becoming a Jackal so exceptional. But give Awayland time and its more muscular tendencies become apparent. You hear it in the clattering denouement of ‘The Waves’, or in the unerring rock and cloudy exuberance of ‘Nothing Arrived’. The final result is hardly a total rethink of Villagers’ sound, but Awayland finds O’Brien’s talent flowering with the kind of promise pinned to The Immediate all those years ago. It’s an album that deserves to be heard. 

Matt Shea