Villagers – 'Awayland'
By Bella Todd
So long as Will.i.am is still making ‘music’, we’re loath to accuse any songwriter of trying too hard. But that’s essentially our sticking point when it comes to Villagers – aka Conor J O’Brien. The man behind 2010’s Ivor Novello-winning, Mercury-nominated album ‘Becoming a Jackal’ has a soft, wise-beyond-his-years voice, and a clear talent for melodies that take the road less travelled. But he’s also a sucker for overripe gothic scenarios, sung tremulously through clenched teeth, in antiquated couplets the meaning of which you never quite feel compelled to unpack. Many will admire these, and the portentous crashings and visionary crescendos with which O’Brien and his touring band expand on the singer-songwriter’s original blueprint. But actually, it’s in his rare, straight-talking, straight-strumming moments that O’Brien is at his most impressive.