Villagers – {Awayland}

written by: April 21, 2013
Album-art-for-{Awayland}-by-Villagers Release Date:


Villagers frontman Conor O’Brien writes cinematically and squeezes a great deal of drama into his dark and vivid lyrics.

“Naked on the toilet with a toothbrush in his mouth/when he suddenly acquired an overwhelming sense of doubt,” O’Brien begins on “Earthly Pleasure” before launching into a four-minute time traveling tale of murder, the devil, and a goddess sipping ginger tea. The music crescendos as guitars ride in tandem with a galloping drum rhythm, strings, and synthesizers.

The song is indicative of the sonic adventure that is {Awayland}, O’Brien’s follow-up to Villagers’ 2010 somber and accomplished debut, Becoming a Jackal.

With {Awayland}, O’Brien’s lithe voice wraps itself around narratives brimming with big ideas. “Nothing Arrived” is an atheist delight as the Dublin native sings, “I waited for something, but something died/so I waited for nothing, and nothing arrived.”

O’Brien graduated with an English literature degree and he draws from writers like Carl Sagan and Kurt Vonnegut into his songs, which depict tragic comedies. The album unfolds from the perspective of a character similar to Slaughterhouse-Five’s Billy Pilgrim, an innocent man living in an amoral world, O’Brien said in an interview.

Toward the end of the album, O’Brien tackles the evolution of human intelligence with references to Burj Khalifa and sequoia trees on “Passing a Message.” The song, which seemingly speaks to the uneasy existence between nature and man’s need to develop, is full of O’Brien’s lyrical ambition (“Honeybee to atrophy/I guess I’m losing my trail here/but it takes loss to be free”) matched by music that builds to a climactic groove.

To O’Brien’s credit, {Awayland} works because he never overreaches to let his songwriting and arrangements shine. Think of the album as an ongoing invitation to fully immerse yourself into his eccentric world.

Villagers – {Awayland} Tracklist:

  1. “My Lighthouse”
  2. “Earthly Pleasure”
  3. “The Waves”
  4. “Judgement Call”
  5. “Nothing Arrived”
  6. “The Bell”
  7. “{Awayland}”
  8. “Passing a Message”
  9. “Grateful Song”
  10. “In a Newfound Land You Are Free”
  11. “Rhythm Composer”