"Where Have You Been All My Life?"

(Domino); Folk/pop

By ​Phil ​Bennett

Dublin indie folkies, the Villagers, are essentially a name for Conor O’Brien to hang from, being songwriter/singer and general face of the outfit.

He and his cohorts have done some wonderful things over their three album career thus far, garnering much critical respect, a decent level of fandemonium and a clutch of awards such as the Ivor Novello and the Choice Music Prize.

No matter how representative O’Brien’s face is, though, the Villagers are indeed a group and this reimagining of tracks from their catalogue, recorded in just one day, indicate the close knit unity they have by creating such a fluid set of songs in such a short timeframe.

Comparing old and new versions of tracks such as Set The Tigers Free from Becoming A Jackal, the updates are intriguing without bewildering the listener.

The overall effect, really, is that much of the electric has gone out the window and what we’re treated to is some wistful, semi-acoustic renditions of songs that can disorient with their juxtaposition of sweet melody and underlying dark atmospherics, but leave little doubt about their honesty and earnestness.

The musicians understand the value of restraint and when dynamics shift, as when the chorus of That Day kicks in, the result is powerful, purely through the application of just a touch more vigour without the need to fling in the kitchen sink.

Fans may see this album as a bit of a stopgap, but for newcomers it provides a canny choice of tracks served up as a taster of a band that invites further investigation.

And by reworking these songs into these delicate, serene shapes, prior knowledge of their material is not required at all - the album stands as its own unique entity.

A fine record.

​Phil ​Bennett

Musician, actor, singer, music reviewer, Phil’s interests cover a lot of bases and this is reflected in the music he writes about. From blues to soul, ambient to electronic, Phil writes about artists he feels are interesting, true to their craft and worthy of your ears.