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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Conor J. O'Brien is a fine song writer. No doubt about it. Villagers' 2010
album 'Becoming A Jackal' was a quietly menacing and thoroughly engrossing
affair. The kind of stuff which gave you the shivers in a very nice way.

Their new release 'Awayland' opens up a few new avenues. The sound, though
still substantially acoustic in nature, has thickened and gained in complexity
without losing any of its immediacy and appeal. Take 'Earthly Pleasure', for
example, a dense brew of crashing guitar, brutal percussion and shivering
strings, together with the kind of memorable chorus which has you reaching
for the repeat button the moment it's over; or perhaps the almost jaunty 'The
Waves' with its energetic quasi-caribbean rhythms and the superb 'Grateful
Song', with its uplifting sense of breadth and drama, to witness the artistic
development of an artist firing on all six creative cylinders. There are some
wonderfully simple moments too : 'In A Newfound Land You Are Free' is the kind
of song which you'll be drawn back to again and again for its gorgeous melody
and perfectly focused piano accompaniment and restrained vocal performance.

So early on in the New Year Villagers may well have delivered one of 2013's
musical highlights. It fully deserves our undivided attention and applause.

Highly Recommended.
0Comment| 14 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
I was only slightly persuaded that the Villagers were any good by the first album. I really enjoyed Ship of Fools & Becoming a Jackal & The Meaning of the Ritual, but thought the album as a whole lacked a bit of heart & soul.

I was subsequently knocked out by a performance at the Borderline in London, the songs sounded alive. Plus we got to hear much of this new collection - most of which sounded wonderful.

Now I have the CD, and it mostly is wonderful. The songwriting is assured, the melodies are naggingly good and the playing is great. I still think there is a lack of something soulful herein, but have no doubt that Conor O'Brien is making his way slowly towards creating a masterpiece. He certainly has the talent.
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on 10 February 2013
Over the first few listens Awayland has grown from a strong 3-4 stars to an absolutely guaranteed 5. Like all great albums it has hidden depths and guarantees longevity by unveiling itself over several listens. As the title suggests, seeing this performed live at the Leadmill in Sheffiled on Friday enhanced my enjoyment of a superb and varied collection of songs. I really believe this should go one further than Becoming a Jackal and win the Mercury music prize.
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on 10 July 2014
A really interesting album and way way better that the first one. The music is well written and you can really see a movement into new areas of writing some great lyrics too. Track three is a corker and addictive, other tracks on the album a little more conventional but you will find something you really enjoy. Influences abound through this album from Radiohead to Cold playish singing quality, I shall put it on now...keep going lads its getting better and better but keep to the weird and steer clear of commercialism...
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on 22 January 2013
Ok. I have waited and waited for the villagers to bring out this album. I pre ordered it as soon as amazon advised it was coming out.
I prefer having hard copy CD's so had to wait a week until it arrived in NZ. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely.
This is a great follow up and easily up there with becoming a jackal. Conor J O'Brien is sheer genius. Tough to pick a favourite track
but hard to get Nothing Arrived out of my head. With this CD something certainly did arrive.
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on 24 January 2013
Had high hopes for this. Their previous album, becoming a jackal was one of the best albums I've heard in years so I guess it was a hard act to follow. It's not awful but is doesn't have the acoustic, mellow sound throughout it. There are a couple of tracks that sound like b sides or songs that were originally instrumentals that have been re worked with vocals for an album. Earthly pleasure is plain awful. I still like the album but with becoming a jackal I could listen to the whole album on repeat and enjoy all of it. With this, I find myself skipping quite a bit. There's a bit too much repetition in a few of the tracks. It feels more like early crowded house whereas baj had lots of influences in it. There are still a few good tracks on it so maybe I'm being a bit harsh but I was blown away by their previous effort so its just disappointment I guess. Sorry, its just a personal thing. I'm still pleased to have both albums in my collection but feel away land might have been harder work for the band. Still worth a purchase though.
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on 21 January 2013
4 of the songs on this album are memorable: The Waves, The Bell, Nothing Arrived and Passing a Message. These are good songs. The rest; filler.

Sadly, save for the above standouts, the rest is try-hard experimentation and the production all too shiny at times. There's a need to conquer new territory and, possibly, a failure to recognise when something's JUST right (cue, for instance, The Bell at 2m:45).

Three surplus insipid solo acoustic fillers are dull. Without wishing to criticise the clearly earnest sentiments of the tracks one must question how they passed the track-listing stage.

On the whole, there's disappointment, given the awesome talent O'Brien and his bandy of trusty Villagers clearly posses. There are 4 really good songs, but when you know there could have been 9 or 10, you feel just a little let down.

IMHO. Others will disagree. Meanwhile, I'm back to the Jackal.
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on 14 January 2013
Fantastic, they've really expanded since Becoming a Jackal, delving into the relms of electronica with a twist of funk and jazz. Only on my first listen but my favourites so far... My Lighthouse, The Waves and Passing a Message. Sublime!!
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on 21 May 2013
I originally brought the album because I love the track the 'Bell' which had been getting lots of airplay on radio six. With a couple of plays of each side I now love it all! It is just so well crafted.
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on 14 February 2013
I first became acquainted with Villagers in mid-2011 and was lucky enough to see them perform in Placa del Rei in Barcelona in September of that year - and coincidentally I'm off to see them again tonight in the less glamorous surroundings of the old Digbeth Institute in Birmingham - well it is St. Valentine's Day.

I bought this album a couple of days after it was released and had mixed feelings at first. i've played it a lot since and have reconciled some of my differences and have finally accepted that "The Waves" is a rather good song (I didn't enjoy it at all at first) and "Nothing Arrived" is one of those tunes that you know upon first hearing that you will love for years, but I just feel that several of the tracks seem to be filler to make the album long enough. "Judgement Call" is a case in point. It seems to lack the finesse of so many of the songs on "Becoming a Jackal" and doesn't really go anywhere. I find myself reaching for the skip button. Too many of the tracks seem insubstantial and unmemorable. I've been listening to the two albums back to back in the car for a couple of weeks and can't help thinking that "{Awayland}" only achieves the high standards of the first album a few times.

If you're already a fan, then you've probably already got both, so why are you reading this review? If you're just discovering Villagers then my advice would be to listen to "Becoming a Jackal" first and give "{Awayland}" a try when you're convinced.
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