Creating an intricate yet topsy-turvy ambience once again, Villagers are back and presenting more intriguing brilliance on album number four. The Art Of Pretending To Swim contains the same recognisable Conor O’Brien signature fortes of old, over pronounced vocal clarity, simple melodies and effortless artistry with such wonderful consequences.
As Villagers have evolved over the years, electronic ingredients have slowly worked into the mix and this record at times has taken the added depth and ran with it. However, that being said, this inclusion hasn't dominated the album at every turn, and the relaxed strings, brushing of hi-hats and guitar strings are still very much part of O’Brien’s area of specialism.
Without doubt, both singles ‘A Trick of the Light’ and ‘Fool’ display moments of a quintessentially British alternative folk that is rarely heard anywhere but on a Villagers record. O’Brien’s lyrics are as expected. Clever, witty, thought provoking and work incredibly well alongside the diversity of everything else begging for attention. Very much suited to today’s hot topics, Villagers have addressed subjects that inevitably will be looked at by many other artists with similar perspectives. Technology, its speedy progression and the impact that its having on our relationships and its ever changing state is surveyed on the record from time to time.
Where Villagers are on this record, and in the grand scheme of things, at this stage is tricky to say, but in reality maybe this shouldn't be looked at in this way. The Art Of Pretending To Swim stands as another strong module in O’Brien’s eclectic body of work regardless of where it lies overall. It’s compelling and fresh, similar yet distant. The record’s peaks and subtleties are one and the same, and uniquely Villagers, and that’s all that matters.