A bold and ambitious statement
James Ayles
10:33 16th August 2021

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Named when frontman Conor O’Brien saw similarities between the strange, surreal nature of our dreams and the forms his songs were taking, Fever Dreams is a bold and ambitious statement for Villagers’ fifth album, a record full of risks at a time in the lifespan of a band when many artists have found their groove and are happy to play it safe. As the Irishman says himself: “Sometimes the most delirious states can produce the most ecstatic, euphoric and escapist dreams.” 

While much of the record was created during a series of full band studio sessions in late 2019 and early 2020, O’Brien then refined them mid-pandemic, alone in his tiny home studio in Dublin. 

O’Brien admits that for this record, produced with the backdrop of an unprecedented and challenging two years of human history, he has taken the opportunity to push boundaries and experiment. He sticks to his word immediately with 47-second mind-bending opening prologue ‘Something Bigger’. 

From there, lead-off single ‘The First Day’ manages the fine feat of harnessing O’Brien’s unmistakable, ethereal vocals and twinkling instrumentals while taking the sound into brand new places. This theme persists through this record, adhering to the fundamentals while experimenting in a way a band can after five albums and 12 years of sustained success. 

‘Song In Seven’ is a textbook case, the lyrics and instrumental fusing into the sort of easy rhythm the band have made their trademark over more than a decade. 

O’Brien has reflected on how the difficulties and challenges of the outside world over the previous few years have influenced the development of the album, which can be seen in the probing and poignant lyrics that drive the record forward. “I think it’s safe to say that the last few years have been pretty tough,” he says. “The constant barrage of an increasingly polarised world hurtling towards ecological oblivion is enough to drive anyone insane, with or without a global pandemic. Making this music felt like a salve for the soul.” 

Still, Fever Dreams is full of little surprises, with ‘Circles In The Firing Line’ a timely reminder of O’Brien’s ability to deliver upbeat and up-tempo just as seamlessly as the more nuanced, experimental numbers. 

With the five-piece due to embark on a 14-date tour of Great Britain and Ireland from October in support of the record, even after more than a decade there is still plenty more to come from Villagers. 

Fever Dreams arrives 20 August via Domino.

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Photo: Press