Album Review: Villagers – The Art Of Pretending To Swim

Villagers’ fourth studio album The Art Of Pretending To Swim is an understated yet exquisite record – easy on the ear, nourishing for the soul. Relaxed in sound, comfortable in feeling; this album flaunts Conor O’Brien’s quiet confidence as well as his unmistakable talent. The album is more experimental than some of Villagers’ previous work; less consciously constrained – the tracks on the album are accessible, soulful – as inspiring as ever, developed in style.

The Art Of Pretending To Swim is about “survival and grace” O’Brien explains; “[in life] you’re not drowning but you’re not exactly swimming either; you’re making it all up as you go along. It’s a blind faith”. Faith is a theme explored throughout the record – in Again, the opening track of the album, Conor sings about his personal rediscovery of religion “I’ve found again a place in my heart again / For God again, in the form of art again”. The track is upbeat and wistful – a solid foundation for the record to build upon.

A Trick Of The Light, the album’s second and leading track is a perfect, delicate moment on the record. It has all the familiar charm of an older Villagers track while being as impeccably produced as it’s fellow tunes on this most recent record.

O’Brien pushes his boundaries slightly throughout The Art Of Pretending To Swim; he explores some more dystopic sounds as well as making use of digital technologies to develop the band’s longstanding sound. The album was created and produced almost single-handedly by O’Brien, whom after ten years in the spotlight, has undoubtedly mastered his craft. Conor O’Brien is braver on this album than in any of his previous music, he’s bolder and yet somehow more blasé. He knows how to make good music, and he’s running with it in an unshowy manner.

The Art Of Pretending To Swim is a delectable example of a band in their prime; improving and striving for greatness, ten years into a career. The record deserves every success and will provide the perfect soundscape for a delightfully hygge Autumn season.

Jessica Newsome