Where Have You Been All My Life?

Album Review of Where Have You Been All My Life? by Villagers.

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Where Have You Been All My Life?


Where Have You Been All My Life? by Villagers

Release Date: Jan 8, 2016
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock

63 Music Critic Score
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Where Have You Been All My Life? - Fairly Good, Based on 8 Critics

Record Collector - 80
Based on rating 4/5

This unusual album is a collection of 11 songs that have appeared on earlier albums, recorded live at RAK studios in a single day. The songs are put front and centre, with a plaintive voice accompanied by generally sparse but effective arrangements – mainly acoustic guitar, drums (often brushed), synth (tastefully discreet), and brass reinforcement (notable on That Day, So Naive). There’s interesting storytelling too: Memoir, written for Charlotte Gainsbourg, catalogues the drastic repercussions of a breakup (“I remember you undressing as I set myself on fire …”).

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Pitchfork - 75
Based on rating 7.5/10

Look up "re-recorded" on whatever streaming site you use, and you’ll find original performers doing hasty and underwhelming renditions of their biggest hits. Everything from "Hang On Sloopy" to "Pour Some Sugar on Me" to "O.P.P." stand as testaments that it’s nearly impossible to improve upon a definitive version. Villagers prove to be the exception to this rule with Where Have You Been All My Life?, a collection of re-recordings of material from their three previous albums that reframes the songs in an impressively cohesive manner.

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musicOMH.com - 70
Based on rating 3.5

Villagers have done little wrong since coming to prominence in 2010. The Irish act led by Conor O’Brien secured a Mercury Prize nomination for debut LP Becoming A Jackal, before following it up three years later with another nomination for second album, Awayland. While they were unable to make it three in a row with album number three, last year’s Darling Arithmetic, it was still met by a largely positive reaction from critics.

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Drowned In Sound - 60
Based on rating 6/10

It was on ‘Pieces’ from Villagers' debut album Becoming a Jackal that Conor J O’Brien first sang "There is a way down that I wish I had not found/ You just split yourself in two, one for them and one for you.” Though he might not have imagined it at the time, these words have gone on to serve as an apt illustration of the dichotomy that has been present in Villagers ever since they rose from the ashes of The Immediate in 2008. The Dublin five-piece have always had two sides to them and it is only becoming more apparent with the release of each record. On their first two albums, Villagers were maximalists.

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The Guardian - 60
Based on rating 3/5

Conor O’Brien has recently made a couple of unusual moves. First, the Villagers frontman released atypically frank album Darling Arithmetic in April 2015, to share his experience of life as a closeted gay man in Ireland. Then he transferred that album’s pared down arrangements to this new release, made up of past material and recorded in one day in a London studio.

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Under The Radar - 50
Based on rating 5/10

Conor O'Brien's discography under the Villagers moniker is a restless one, as each of his three albums has carried its own distinct aesthetic, refusing to rest on the stylistic laurels of its predecessor. There was the Bright Eyes-aping troubadour singer/songwriter schtick of his debut, Becoming a Jackal, the lush, gorgeous widescreen experimentation of its follow-up, {Awayland}, then 2015's Darling Arithmetic, a pared-back, largely acoustic effort that you might compare to Damien Rice if you were in an unkind mood. .

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The Observer (UK) - 40
Based on rating 2/5

After two albums of inventive folk-pop, Conor O’Brien’s third – last year’s Darling Arithmetic – seemed to find him drifting tremulously towards the middle of the road. This record, a collection of songs picked from Villagers’ past and recorded in a day without additional studio polish, might have been a good opportunity to rough up his most recent songs and recapture some of the old zip. But though these 12 tracks have their merits – the warm brass on My Lighthouse, the dabs of double bass on Memoir – rawness and originality are not among them.

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NOW Magazine
Their review was only somewhat favourable

It may seem a tad premature for a band with only three records to release an anthology, but Ireland's Villagers prove it's all about quality, not quantity. This compilation includes reworked songs from the indie folk act's two Mercury Prize-shortlisted albums, Becoming A Jackal and {Awayland}, and Darling Arithmetic, released in the spring. Recorded in one day and made up of largely first or second takes, it finds singer/songwriter/creative force Conor O'Brien's intricate orchestral arrangements more stripped-back.

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