Villagers: Where Have You Been All My Life? (Domino) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Where Have You Been All My Life?


Jan 04, 2016 Villagers Bookmark and Share

Conor O’Brien’s discography under the Villagers moniker is a restless one, as each of his three albums has carried its own distinct aesthetic, refusing to rest on the stylistic laurels of its predecessor. There was the Bright Eyes-aping troubadour singer/songwriter schtick of his debut, Becoming a Jackal, the lush, gorgeous widescreen experimentation of its follow-up, {Awayland}, then 2015’s Darling Arithmetic, a pared-back, largely acoustic effort that you might compare to Damien Rice if you were in an unkind mood.

Where Have You Been All My Life then is Villagers’ first foray into live album territory and it sees O’Brien filter a collection of songs from across his three albumsas well as a by-the-numbers, slightly lifeless cover of “Wichita Lineman”through the prism of the most recent. Percussion largely goes by the wayside, and O’Brien settles downin a studio, but more on that in a bitwhile the grand piano, harp, mellotron, and flugelhorn provide the color. Perhaps those Damien Rice comparisons aren’t so cruel after all?

Villagers are a surprisingly energetic live act, with O’Brien often recalling Bruce Springsteen (no, really) as he uses the full stage in his shows. The problem is that this effort, recorded at London’s RAK Studio, is audience-free. It is a live album with no atmosphere, too polished to convey any energy, too technical to invite empathy and too isolated to evoke intimacy.

The Damien Rice comparisons are unfair because O’Brien is, demonstrably, a much, much better musician than his compatriot. This album shows us that, but it’s little that we haven’t seen before. (

Author rating: 5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10


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Tony Dagnall
January 6th 2016

Technically this is not Villagers’ first foray into live album territory. ‘Live at the Workman’s Club, Dublin’ was released in 2011 for Record Store Day, but those releases still count, don’t they?

Dan Lucas
January 9th 2016

Good point Tony, I’d forgotten that one.