Villagers – Nothing Arrived (Domino)

Irish folk-rock brigade Villagers, fronted by the sonically-dextrous story-spinner Conor O'Brien release new single 'Nothing Arrived' from their recently dropped sophomore effort {Awayland} – yes, those brackets are in the title. With the glowing, gushing praise the Ivor Novello award winners received for their Mercury-nominated debut Becoming A Jackal, the only way was up for O'Brien.

Released Feb 1st, 2013 via Domino / By Larry Day
Villagers – Nothing Arrived (Domino)
He morphed what was essentially a solo project into a fully-fledged band, accepting influences from the other members and together they crafted something that will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Mumford & Sons; and it's more than a stones throw away from the first record. It's a darnsight chirpier, with electro, Motown, jazz and pop-rock influences alongside their signature folk noise – things dwell less on the macabre (though that isn't entirely missing) and the LP just comes across as a whole lot more fun. It's easier to digest, for sure, but it likely lacks the sulky edge that judging panels crave.

Fresh single 'Nothing Arrived' is gigantic. It's a heroic, climactic shard of folk-rock-pop, combining the folksy tale-weaving O'Brien built his career on with pop-flecked piano chords and gutsy acoustic-rock guitars. It begins moody, and then slowly crescendos into an almost-anthemic chorus: “It's our darkest blackout, it's our final end. My dear sweet nothing, let's start anew” the vocals beg, clawing at the frayed tatters of a failed love.

It's so lyrically dark, but juxtaposed against hope-raising music – and though it's only a song, you begin rooting for our crooning hero like it's a high-budget TV drama. Strings swoon in, guitars fuzz into oblivion and cymbals crash as waves do on a pebbled shore.

The vocals dissolve into the enormous sounds and O'Brien is nearly swallowed, finally clambering to the surface to sing “I waited for something, and something died. So I waited for nothing, and nothing arrived”. It's tragic. Heartbreaking. Brilliant.