“Where Have You Been All My Life?” Villagers
The Villagers are a five-piece, indie folk band from Ireland. Founded in 2008, this is the group’s fourth album. What makes it particularly unusual is that it’s largely a retrospective of the band’s first three studio albums, but with all of the songs re-imagined and re-recorded live in RAK Studios in London on a single day in July 2015. The tracks were all captured as first or second takes with NO overdubbing (and obviously, no audience noise). Exactly half of the songs come from the Villagers’ most recent release, “Darling Arithmetic.” The album showcases lead singer-songwriter, Conor O’Brien’s, intimate and honest songwriting and vocals that range from sparse and brittle to searing and soul-baring. The rich collection is 12 songs with 55 minutes of music.
1. (4:32) Set the Tigers Free – Easy-going opener. Sustained synth soundscape carries us through. Slow stroll with brushes on drums and O’Brien’s lilting vocals. ***
2. (4:20) Everything I Am Is Yours – Mid-tempo, catchy indie folk-rock. Flowing synths. Piano. And smartly strummed guitar. ***
3. (2:45) My Lighthouse – Halting and ethereal. Fingerpicked guitar. Harp. Flugelhorn. Rising gently toward a bigger conclusion.
4. (4:33) Courage – Strummed and bouncy. Piano. Vocals still gentle, but less fragile and more folky. Reassuring. ****
5. (4:56) That Day – Starts pensively, but slowly builds to a bigger emotional level. O’Brien keeps singing, “Can you hear me now?’ which unfortunately in the U.S. recalls a widely seen television ad for a cellular carrier.
6. (4:49) The Soul Serene – Mid-tempo, melodic indie pop-rock set amongst a sweeping soundscape of serenity. ***
7. (3:27) Memoir – Originally written for Charlotte Gainsbourg and never recorded before by the Villagers. Light and jazzy. Great bass line. Yearning, lovelorn lyrics. “And in the orgy, I can vaguely hear/The outline of your call” and “You were the lighthouse to my broken boat.” ****
8. (4:22) Hot Scary Summer – Measured tempo. Optimistic, soulful, piano-based tune.
9. (7:06) The Waves – Epic, anthemic version of this tune from the band’s second album. Great interplay between the guitars, synths and bass. Biggest track on the album with full drums. ****
10. (3:53) Darling Arithmetic – Peaceful, intimate and honest. Piano and guitar accompanying O’Brien’s beautiful vocals. ***
11. (6:00) So Naïve – Drifting soundscape created by Mellotron or synths. Flugelhorn mixed in. Urgent guitar and O’Brien’s emotive vocals.
12. (4:01) Wichita Lineman – Great cover of the Jimmy Webb tune — never before recorded by the Villagers. Signature bass riff leading into bright piano at the start is immediately familiar. Flugelhorn in lead break. Great song. Great performance. ****