Over the years, the Irish alt-folk outfit Villagers have been seen in many guises. Since the release of their heralded 2010 debut album 'Becoming A Jackal', the band have evolved from a traditional folk outfit into something with more depth and eccentricity about them. Now pretty much the one-man project of frontman Conor O'Brien, he has started to move away from the basic and simple sound of previous years as he adopts a more thorough production for the fourth full-length 'The Art Of Pretending To Swim'.
Villagers have always had this very intoxicating sound that forces you to listen as it plays, but on this new release, you can hear that a far crisper sound has been adopted. Rather than opt to follow the path they would have been expected to, the band have upped the pace of this record, leading to comparisons to Radiohead's 'In Rainbows'. A sharp turn away from the direction they were heading in, but one that seems to have revitalised them and sees them exploring new ideas and intentions with sheer gusto.
This certainly feels like a new beginning for Villagers. A strong yet diverse full-length that shows O'Brien at the peak of his creative spell, bringing a fresh perspective to their style and pulling it off with grace. By far one of the best records this band has ever released.