Where Have You Been All My Life? by Villagers (Domino)

Villagers’ most recent album, Where Have You Been All My Life?, brings back songs from their past albums and puts them in a raw and heartfelt environment. Recorded live in one day at London’s RAK Studio, this album doesn’t add on any unnecessary bells and whistles, but instead is plain music in its rawest form.

The album opens with an eerie theremin tone that encapsulates the listener. “Set the Tigers Free” continues with a simple, yet alluring, acoustic guitar and soon adds in Conor O’Brien’s raw and wavering voice. This song sets the mood for the rest of the album, with its folksy sound and genuine emotions.

The underproduction of this album makes it easy to feel and understand each word sung. O’Brien’s tone is conversational, and his voice is soft but straining. Each of his breaths can be heard and his emotions clearly come through in everything he sings.

“My Lighthouse,” the third track on the album, starts with simple acoustic guitar plucking, and slowly builds until O’Brien is almost yelling over the instrumentation. Suddenly, the music drops off, leaving the listener with an unsettling feeling of incompleteness. This poetic ending leaves ears thirsty for more and minds racing to find closure.

Overall, the album uses simple and catchy melodies with grabbing hooks. Each song is loosely structured and meanders along. This loose structure combined with the raw and genuine sound of each song makes this album stand out among the overly synth-laden and auto-tuned songs most often heard on the radio.

—Tessa Blair

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