Villagers project a slow beauty with Where Have You Been All My Life?

Where Have You Been All My LifeRarely do a collection of songs that were penned over the course of five years come together so well under one roof. Through the music of Where Have You Been All My Life? Dublin based band Villagers represent an entire generation of lost souls. In doing so, the four-piece prove themselves hugely underrated.

There's a slow beauty to opening track “Set the Tigers Free”: a bittersweet goodbye that sets the tone for the rest of the album. With older tracks re-imagined to suit Villagers’ more recent Darling Arithmetic sound and live set up, the focus is unsurprisingly on Conor O’Brien’s songwriting. To his credit, his talent shines very bright indeed under scrutiny. While tracks such as “The Soul Serene” are stripped right back to reveal the guts and garters of the song, ballads such as "Hot Scary Summer" become even more emotive, to the point of nearly bludgeoning you to death with inner feels. The atmosphere is immediately plunged into the refreshing, empowering surge of "The Waves", another standout on an album full of highlights.

Despite its foreboding sentiment, “Set the Tigers Free” – which originally featured on Villagers’ debut album Becoming the Jackal - is an appropriate place to start what is essentially a greatest hits album for the band. Astonishingly, however, this greatest hits album was recorded in just one take, at London’s RAK Studio with producer Richard Woodcraft (Radiohead, The Last Shadow Puppets) and live engineer Ber Quinn to hand. Featuring the multifaceted talents of O’Brien, the one-time solo artist is joined by his staple band mates and a host of talented musicians, to create a crystal clear, heartbreaking vision of sound. It's quite extraordinary and best draws comparison to Frightened RabbitsLiver! Lung! FRor Patrick Wolf's Sundark and Riverlight.

Undoubtedly, the success of Where Have You Been All My Life? is partly down to the band’s steady approach: the album was recorded at the end of a long time on the road in the summer of 2015, its one-take process no doubt echoing an actual Villagers gig at the time. But there’s something more here, something magical. It is hard to recall the last time DrunkenWerewolf witnessed such a flawless, seemingly effortless recital – the only crying shame being we are not actually in the room to enjoy it. Turning up the speakers and locking yourself away from the outside world will for now have to suffice.

Release: 8th January 2016, Domino Recording Co


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