Friday, August 10, 2018

Listen/Watch: Villagers - "A Trick of the Light"

photo by Rich Gilligan
After the hermetic minimalism of previous studio album Darling Arithmetic and the composite live album Where Have You Been All My Life?, Villagers, the project of Irish singer/songwriter Conor J O'Brien has announced the imminent arrival of their fourth full length studio album (fifth if you consider the reworkings that constitute Where Have You Been All My Life? as a proper album) The Art of Pretending To Swim with the first single from the forthcoming album "A Trick of the Light". While O'Brien's made an impressive career out of crafting narratives out of instances both major and minor; universal and fantastic, Darling Arithmetic offered a glimpse into the actual person behind Villagers featuring songs and lyrics that were arguably the most unflinchingly personal. While it remains to be seen if O'Brien will provide further glimpses behind the curtain, "A Trick of the Light" at least seems like a pause from outright autobiography.

Instead "A Trick of the Light" gains its emotive power from the all too universal feeling of the sort of helpless uncertainty that sends you looking for answers and signs wherever they come. O'Brien has an award-winning knack for poetic lyricism and he's in exceedingly rare form here immediately offering up an absolutely awe-inspiring metaphor that also manages to tie into theme of swimming and water that one imagines an album titled The Art of Pretending to Swim might wade through. Both surprising and perhaps unsurprisingly so, O'Brien doesn't rely on a whole lot of exposition. He's incredibly succinct as O'Brien gets an incredibly amount of traction out of about two verses and trusts in both those two verses and a particular strong chorus to do, well a hell of a lot. It's perhaps an application to what O'Brien learned writing, recording, and producing a record all of his own that his return to fuller production packs such a punch. Though arguably done with minimalism in terms of production, O'Brien applies it lyrically and the result is a cogent song that is a powder keg of emotion, the fuse of which is lit at the track's very beginning and is properly deploying during its climatic choruses.

The Art of Pretending To Swim, the new record from Villagers, is out September 21st on Domino Record Co. You can pre-order the record here.

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