The Art of Pretending To Swim
Around the mid-point of Villagers’ fourth record, The Art of Pretending To Swim, there’s an arresting moment where Conor O’Brien sings, “My will is strong but it’s starting to break”. A verse and a chorus later, he defiantly states, “No I don’t need no validation from anyone.” This culmination is coloured with a vibrant palette of jovial vocals, energetic percussion and exuberant electronic elements. It captures the perpetuating anxiety that penetrates modern society, people seeking acceptance from external sources. An antidote to this noise anchors the overall theme of establishing a sense of faith; finding it, relying on it and finding your place between those proverbial posts.
In the near decade since the release of O’Brien’s debut Becoming a Jackal, his records have adhered to either one of two tones; sedate or spirited. This rhythmic range relieves O’Brien of reductive singer-songwriter connotations. On his latest release, the revered musician recalls Awayland’s zest by incorporating various avant-garde sonic elements; juxtaposing organic and synthetic timbres and shifting between softer melodies to a plethora of catchy grooves and hooks.
Immediate highlights include the infectious Long Time Waiting, the synth heavy opener Again and the combination of glitching distortions with angelic synth and vocals on Hold Me Down. Embedded in O’Brien’s lyrics are references to nature and the soul, again highlighting the wonderment and grounding qualities of the natural world.
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Words – Zara Hedderman