Album Review: Villagers – Where Have You Been All My Life?



Villagers have just released their new live album Where Have You Been All My Life?, an album that explores the beautiful tones of the band’s vocals and exquisite harmonising, whilst drawing on some of the finest tracks from their back catalogue. Conor O’Brien’s Irish folk band rose to fame in 2010 with their debut album Becoming A Jackal, before delivering the stunning Mercury Prize-nominated {Awayland} and last year’s beautiful and honest Darling Arithmetic. This new album showcases how well they work together as a band, having recorded every song in just one day last Summer.

The album starts with the incredible track Set The Tigers Free – a song that explores the metaphorical and poetical aspects of song-writing. ‘True love feeds on absences like pleasure feeds on pain/So no matter where I’m standing I still love you all the same’. These lyrics personify the aspects of love and pleasure, exploring the story of an ending relationship. The beauty of this album is that a melancholic song can be followed by an upbeat Irish folk song, as seen with the second track on this album, Everything I Am Is Yours. This song again has that deeply haunting sadness resonating within the juxtaposition of the lyrics and the instruments, but the vocals themselves are powerful allowing for a song to achieve that heart warming feeling.

Memoir is a bluesy-jazzy song that shows how spectacular the band can alternate between genres. The lyrics again suggest a story of anger after a betrayal. Rather than going with the stereotypical ‘you’ve broken my heart’, this band really direct this song at the truly hateful feelings that come after a break up. ‘Every memory is sailing to the kingdom of your soul/As you patiently await and lose all self control/You were the lighthouse to my broken boat/But I’ve left you behind’. The poetic lyrics are what really make this band so perfect.

The most beautiful song on this album is Hot Scary Summer, a song I believe anyone can connect to. Again the lyrics are outstanding and really showcase their exceptional ability that song-writers would envy. The Waves follows from Hot Scary Summer and allows the band to express their amazing abilities. The gravelly tones of the vocals create a haunting atmosphere when the instrumental fades, almost with the O’Brien singing acapella and showcasing how elegant the vocals are.

Overall, though this album is predominantly a return to past work, the songs and vocals are all perfect and breathe new life into their back catalogue – especially given that they were all recorded in just one or two takes. Even though it may be a heart breaking album to listen to, it is one that will stay with you and you shall never put it down. A great listen.

Rachel Allman