{Awayland}

Album Review of {Awayland} by Villagers.

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{Awayland}

Villagers

{Awayland} by Villagers

Release Date: Apr 9, 2013
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Indie Folk

72 Music-Critic Score
How the Music Critic Score works

{Awayland} - Very Good, Based on 16 Critics

musicOMH.com - 90
Based on rating 4.5
90

Considering that they only had their first live performance in 2008, Villagers have packed a lot into their brief period of existence. 2010’s debut Becoming A Jackal was nominated for the Mercury Prize and saw frontman Conor O’Brien winning a prestigious Ivor Novello award for his accomplished songwriting. That album was certainly the kind of effort which springs to mind when you think of the Mercurys – an intimate, compelling and sometimes bleak folk record which recalled Bon Iver and Arcade Fire in their more sparse moments – and it was unfortunately easy to imagine that Villagers would follow the usual fate of most folk artists nominated for the prize and vanish back into relative obscurity.

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Drowned In Sound - 90
Based on rating 9/10
90

I’m not ashamed to admit that one of the movies I enjoyed the most in 2012 was The Expendables 2. It was a potpourri of numb entertainment: Rambo, John McLane, Rambo, Ivan Drago, Chuck Norris and Street Fighter; huge guns, huge explosions, huge quantities of blood and steroids and every other Eighties action film trope crammed into 103 minutes tightly enough that the risk of nuance, thought, liberalism or dialogue (grunts don’t count) is gleefully averted. It was essentially everything Skyfall would have been had it not been so po-faced and consequentially been as good as everyone said it was.

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AllMusic - 80
Based on rating 8/10
80

The second album of any artist's career is always a difficult one to deliver and possibly more so if your debut reaped critical praise, a Mercury Prize nomination, and an Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically. This was the situation Conor J. O'Brien and his band Villagers found themselves in when writing their sophomore record, wayland.

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The Guardian - 80
Based on rating 4/5
80

Conor O'Brien picked up a Mercury nomination for his band's debut, Becoming a Jackal, and an Ivor Novello for the title track. Expectations for Villagers' follow-up won't be dampened by the 28-year-old Irishman's suggestion that the key influences are Nick Drake, Curtis Mayfield and Slaughterhouse 5 author Kurt Vonnegut. O'Brien certainly has enough literary imagery to suggest he could have been a writer.

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The Observer (UK) - 80
Based on rating 4/5
80

For all the charm of Conor O'Brien's first album, 2010's Becoming a Jackal, it contained nothing to suggest that he was anything other than a folk-informed Paddy McAloon. The Dubliner's follow-up, though no less literate, is more adventurous and electronic, exposing O'Brien as an unlikely techno fan. Particularly impressive – and bleepy – is The Waves, whose wide-eyed lyrics sit atop sledgehammer beats.

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Filter - 77
Based on rating 77%%
77

There’s strength in Conor O’Brien’s voice. His subdued Irish bellow takes center stage on the majority of {Awayland} and does its best to find melody lines to twist around the steady yet often chaotic instrumentation provided. It's a complicated album both in sound and emotional vulnerability, yet there lacks an absolute depravity of heart and mind—{Awayland} tends to feel without reason or necessity, as if thrown together more in effort to get something down than to say something that needed saying.

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Tiny Mix Tapes - 70
Based on rating 3.5/5
70

“I tried to write everything from the perspective of a newborn baby; given the gift of language, what would he or she say? For a while I thought the record would be called Birth, and the album cover is an image of a little boy looking out to sea, but I think that the album is about reclaiming that sense of curiosity and wonder which we have when we are children and we often lose over the years.”– Conor J. O’Brien. To a certain extent, Conor J.

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New Musical Express (NME) - 70
Based on rating 3.5/5
70

Villagers have done a P!nk. The follow-up to their 2010 debut ‘Becoming A Jackal’ is called ‘{Awayland}’. Yes, with parentheses. I’m just waiting for a group to come out called . It’s surely only a matter of time. But annoying spelling aside, {Awayland} moves the Conor J O’Brien’s ….

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NOW Magazine - 60
Based on rating 3/5
60

VILLAGERS play Sidedoor and the Great Hall on June 15 as part of NXNE. See listing. Rating: NNN On their second album, Villagers have taken a quirky, noisily orchestral approach to indie folk. Cheerier and more robust than their gloomy Mercury Prize-nominated debut, it flirts with electronics and often swells with ambitious arrangements.

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Record Collector - 60
Based on rating 3/5
60

Conor J O’Brien’s Villagers project, now essentially expanded to a five-piece, was lauded for its 2012 debut Becoming A Jackal, a folk-tinged celebration of childhood and our sense of home. On the follow-up, however, his horizons are flung far wider – both lyrically and sonically. Opener My Lighthouse continues as normal, with O’Brien’s easily identifiable finger-picking, before Earthly Pleasure bursts in with a juddering, electronic approach, with lines skipping back on themselves and stuttering to make their points.

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No Ripcord - 60
Based on rating 6/10
60

It might be easy, listening to {Awayland}, to forget that Villagers’ eponymous debut was a slant-folk record; leaving the door ajar for you to discover its cracks and shades. The delicate abstract shapes of Becoming A Jackal had an unfamiliar tinge, magnetizing the audience towards Conor O’Brien’s distressed lullabies. Villagers as O’Brien’s moniker are somewhat different however to what now exists as Villagers, the band.

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Consequence of Sound - 58
Based on rating C+
58

Conor O’Brien started out under the solo moniker Villagers, but his company has grown of late. On his sophomore effort, {Awayland}, the singer-songwriter captures the prismatic beauty of collaborating amongst multiple perspectives and talents and the enviable return of a sound that’s both contagious and rich. Blame this sound on synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers.

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Pitchfork - 55
Based on rating 5.5/10
55

Conor O'Brien earned comparisons to the likes of Conor Oberst, Damien Rice, and Glen Hansard on Villagers' 2010 debut Becoming a Jackal, and they were deserved on a musical level: as with Bright Eyes, the Frames, and Rice's solo work, Villagers start with humble folk and build outwards with daunting orchestral arrangements and subtle electronics. Implicit in those comparisons is the assumption of O'Brien as a similarly young old-soul, a world-weary troubadour who lives to fight an eternal struggle: How does one convey the truth to the listener without sounding like a pedant, or worse, a fool? Success is typically achieved in a way that parallels the expansive demeanor of the music: starting with the knowledge that everyone is at the very least an expert on their own experience, and using your own truth to project outwards towards larger ideas. That's where O'Brien breaks rank, as Villagers take the opposite approach on the occasionally charming but mostly frustrating {Awayland}, an album which too often has big ideas and little proof of how he arrived at them.

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The Quietus
Their review was very positive

I'm not sure whether you've personally scooped an Ivor Novello and been tipped for a Mercury before the age of thirty, but if you have, I imagine you're tempted to keep on singing the same song until the whole world is at your feet. Not so for Conor O'Brien, the restless writer around whom Ireland's Villagers revolve. While touring 2010′s excellent Becoming A Jackal, O'Brien claims he grew worried that endless repetition of the same lovelorn material risked becoming "somehow performative": a day job at best, fraudulent at worst.

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The Line of Best Fit
Their review was positive

They’ve already racked up the accolades and silverware with nominations and awards from the likes of Mercury and Ivor Novello, but Villagers weren’t content with just hoarding critical acclaim. Their follow-up to 2010s debut Becoming A Jackal steers away from the gloomy despondence and woebegone tales which award panel judges enjoy, and towards a ray of hope that the everyman can find solace in. {Awayland} doesn’t necessarily tick all the “award” boxes, and those seeking the same despair of before will be (almost) sorely disappointed, but in shedding the sulk, O’Brien and co.

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BBC Music
Their review was positive

A follow-up marking Villagers out as interesting, literate and imaginative storytellers. Jude Clarke 2013 When your debut album bags a Mercury Prize nomination, expectations for its follow-up are going to be raised. Villagers’ Becoming a Jackal set of 2010 was an alternately arresting and disturbing release more than worthy of its place on the Mercury list, a showcase for Irish singer-songwriter Conor O’Brien’s sensitive croon and dark way with words.

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