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Video of the Moment #2887: Villagers

 
By on Thursday, 30th August 2018 at 6:00 pm
 

Next month will see the release of Conor J. O’Brien’s fourth album as Villagers. ‘The Art of Pretending to Swim’ makes its debut to the wild on the 21st of September on Domino Records. It follows ‘Darling Arithmetic’ from 2 years ago; read Carrie’s review through here. Single ‘Fool’ is a great taste of the upcoming LP, and it’s accompanied by a video from Irish director Bob Gallagher, often chosen by artists for his quirky treatments of their musical material.

Gallagher says of it, “The video is a surreal take on a marriage proposal, which is the ultimate gambit in love. The scenario pushes how much Conor’s character is willing to overlook his partner’s shortcomings, and convince himself that everything is fine. You could call it foolishness but you could also consider it a kind of optimism, striving to see the best in a situation.” In the video, O’Brien is a cringe-worthy would-be proposing suitor, singing the schmaltzy words, “So here is my bleeding heart / Will you be my falling star? / Will you take the pain away?” This version of Villagers reminds me of his earlier tracks and simpler days. Watch the video for ‘Fool’ below. For all of our coverage on Villagers here on TGTF, follow this link.

 

Album Review: Villagers – Where Have You Been All My Life?

 
By on Monday, 11th January 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

Villagers WHYB cover‘Darling Arithmetic’, Conor J. O’Brien’s third album under the Villagers name, was characterised by a deliberately pared back, streamlined approach to songwriting, in contrast to the experimentalism of previous album ‘{Awayland}’ and Villagers’ debut LP ‘Becoming a Jackal’. Where the first two albums, ‘{Awayland}’ in particular, were intricate and complex, ‘Darling Arithmetic’ was purposefully simple and sparse, stripped back both musically and emotionally as O’Brien attempted to write concise and candid songs without the pretense of symbolism and metaphor he had used as a crutch in the past.

When touring for ‘Darling Arithmetic’ began, O’Brien’s newly simplified songwriting style shifted Villagers’ previous music into a different context. Live versions of older songs were rearranged and reorchestrated to bring them more in line with songs from the new album, and the end result was an organic emotional energy that quickly inspired O’Brien to return to the recording studio. Villagers’ new compilation album, the charmingly titled ‘Where Have You Been All My Life?’ is a collection of 12 tracks recorded in a single day at London’s RAK Studios, all on the first or second take. Joining O’Brien in the studio were producer Richard Woodcraft (Radiohead, The Last Shadow Puppets) and Villagers’ live sound engineer Ber Quinn, along with band members Cormac Curran on piano and synthesiser, Danny Snow on double bass, Mali Llywelyn on harp, mellotron and vocals, and Gwion Llewelyn on drums, flugelhorn and vocals.

The sonic atmosphere of ‘Where Have You Been All My Life?’ is precisely what the album’s press release promises: “a lush, harmony-laden and vibrant document of a time and a place.” Fully half of the album is comprised of songs from the recent ‘Darling Arithmetic’, including ‘The Soul Serene’, whose sweeping tranquility reflects the overall character of ‘Where Have You Been All My Life?’ and whose lyrics are themselves reflected in the title. The earlier tracks taken from ‘Becoming a Jackal’ and ‘{Awayland}’ are softened and expanded in the live recordings, beginning with the slightly off-kilter harmonies of ‘Set the Tigers Free’ and ‘My Lighthouse’.

One of the most striking revisions on the album appears in ‘That Day’, originally released on ‘Becoming a Jackal’. The pastiche of stylistic elements in ‘That Day’ are smoothed and melded together in this new version, and the song unfolds and evolves much more naturally than in the original recording. The subtle instrumentation imparts a slightly different emotional flavour to the lyrics “can you hear me now / lying in this bed / embedded in this written story” as O’Brien sings them from a farther-removed distance, perhaps beyond the story’s conclusion.

Along with the previously released tracks, the compilation includes a new recording of ‘Memoir’, which O’Brien originally wrote for Charlotte Gainsbourg‘s 2011 album ‘Stage Whisper’. Softly sultry and overtly sensual, the song is a nice change of pace from the more mellow air of the preceding tracks, and O’Brien’s vocals work surprisingly well in the lightly jazz-inflected context. ‘Memoir’ segues effortlessly into ‘Hot Scary Summer’, whose lyric “this shouldn’t be hard work” ostensibly refers to the end of a romantic relationship but could as just as easily have been a revelation about songwriting.

[youtube]https://youtu.be/RELpJxjh8IQ[/youtube]

Stylistically schizophrenic in its original ‘{Awayland}’ arrangement, ‘The Waves’ is here stretched to 7 minutes in duration by virtue of an evocative and anticipatory instrumental introduction. The beautifully crystalline and harmonically colorful piano arrangement of ‘Darling Arithmetic’ is as blissful in the live version as in the original recording, and the plucked guitar rhythm of ‘So Naïve’ is only slightly altered beneath its exquisitely ethereal instrumental soundscape.

‘’Where Have You Been All My Life?” closes with a cover of classic American country song ‘Wichita Lineman’, written by Jimmy Webb and made popular by Glen Campbell in the late 1960s. Celebrated for its timelessness and near universal appeal, the song is in perfect keeping with O’Brien’s recent songwriting strategy, and while the shimmering piano in his version is quite different from the more country-tinged original, its yearning emotional impact is very much the same.

This new Villagers album is a testament to the quality of Conor J. O’Brien’s songwriting, in the sense that his songs stand up well to this kind of reworking, and a testament to his versatility as a songwriter in that he is willing to deconstruct his own work in order to create something new and contextually different. He has achieved a sort of nirvana with this cohesive and emotionally effective collection of songs, which is at once easy on the ears and warmly soothing to the heart.

8.5/10

Villagers’ new compilation album ‘Where Have You Been All My Life?’ is out now on Domino Records. O’Brien and his bandmates will tour the album in the UK and Ireland beginning later this month; you can find all the dates here. Previous TGTF coverage of Villagers is right back here.

 

Villagers / January and February 2016 UK/Irish Tour

 
By on Monday, 11th January 2016 at 8:00 am
 

Conor J. O’Brien and Villagers will begin 2016 with a tour of Ireland and the UK in support of Villagers’ new album ‘Where Have You Been All My Life?’ The album, billed as a distillation of “five years and three albums of Villagers songwriting into one flowing narrative”, is out now on Domino Records. If you fancy a quick review of Villagers’ back catalogue before you listen to the new album, you can find TGTF’s archive of previous coverage on the band right here.

Villagers will play live dates in Ireland through the end of January before crossing the Irish Sea for a run of February shows, including a date at Shepherd’s Bush Empire in London. Scheduled dates in Belfast and Dublin have already sold out, but tickets for the remaining shows listed below are available now.

Sunday 24th January 2016 – Cork Everyman Theatre
Monday 25th January 2016 – Wexford Arts Centre
Tuesday 26th January 2016 – Belfast MAC Theatre (sold out)
Thursday 28th January 2016 – Dublin Vicar Street (sold out)
Friday 29th January 2016 – Galway Black Box
Saturday 30th January 2016 – Limerick Dolan’s
Monday 1st February 2016 – Gateshead Sage 2
Tuesday 2nd February 2016 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Wednesday 3rd February 2016 – Leeds Brudenell Social Club
Friday 5th February 2016 – Manchester Gorilla
Saturday 6th February 2016 – Sheffield Leadmill
Sunday 7th February 2016 – Birmingham Glee Club
Monday 8th February 2016 – Oxford Academy 2
Wednesday 10th February 2016 – Bath Komedia
Thursday 11th February 2016 – London Shepherd’s Bush Empire
Friday 12th February 2016 – Brighton St. George’s Church
Saturday 13th February 2016 – Ashford St. Mary’s Church

 

Video of the Moment #1901: Villagers

 
By on Saturday, 5th September 2015 at 6:00 pm
 

Conor J. O’Brien, aka Villagers, has a new promo video out for ‘Hot Scary Summer’. The song appears on ‘Darling Arithmetic’, O’Brien’s highly anticipated third album, which is now out on Domino Records. Will it follow in the footsteps of ‘Becoming a Jackal’ and ‘Awayland’ for a Mercury Prize nomination? We’ll have to wait a few more weeks for that potential announcement, but in the meantime, you can enjoy the animations that go along with the song in the promo. Watch it below.

To watch the promo video for ‘Everything I Am is Yours’, click here. For all past coverage of Villagers on TGTF, go here.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9ssa-N2biY[/youtube]

 

Video of the Moment #1784: Villagers

 
By on Monday, 13th April 2015 at 6:00 pm
 

Conor J. O’Brien, more familiar to all by his stage name Villagers, recently released his third album ‘Darling Arithmetic’. Ahead of his new April/May UK/Irish tour that begins tomorrow in Bristol and includes his biggest London headline show to date at the Barbican on the 1st of May, the now beardy Irish singer/songwriter has unveiled a promo for ‘Everything I Am is Yours’, which sees O’Brien playing a whole slew of different instruments sympathetically to the video’s lovelorn protagonist. Watch it below.

‘Darling Arithmetic’ is out now on Domino Records. For more details about the album, Domino has created this microsite with special features. Keen on reading past coverage on Villagers? Right this way.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hD0wd2HUVs[/youtube]

 

Villagers / April and May 2015 UK/Irish Tour

 
By on Tuesday, 10th February 2015 at 9:00 am
 

Last week, TGTF editor Mary found Conor J. O’Brien of Irish folk pop band Villagers sporting a new beard and announcing a new track from Villagers’ upcoming third album ‘Darling Arithmetic’, due out on the 10th of April.

Ahead of the release, the band will play at Hebden Bridge Trades Club on the 20th of February and in Gateshead as part of the BBC 6 Music Festival on the 21st of February. Just following the album release, Villagers will embark on a spring tour of the UK and Ireland; tickets for these shows go on sale this Friday, the 13th of February.

Tuesday 14th April 2015 – Bristol St George’s
Wednesday 15th April 2015 – Falmouth Pavilions
Thursday 16th April 2015 – Exeter Phoenix
Friday 17th April 2015 – Brighton Old Markett
Sunday 19th April 2015 – Liverpool Epstein Theatre
Monday 20th April 2015 – Manchester Concert Hall
Tuesday 21st April 2015 – Leeds City Varieties
Thursday 23rd April 2015 – Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
Friday 24th April 2015 – Cardiff Gate
Sunday 26th April 2015 – Nottingham Glee Club
Monday 27th April 2015 – Edinburgh Pleasance Theatre
Tuesday 28th April 2015 – Glasgow Oran Mor
Friday 1st May 2015 – London Barbican
Wednesday 20th May 2015 – Dublin Olympia Theatre
Saturday 23rd May 2015 – Cork Opera House
Sunday 24th May 2015 – Limerick Big Top
Monday 25th May 2015 – Belfast Mandela Hall

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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