Design By Humans
Published On: Mon, Feb 29th, 2016

Villagers: Where Have You Been All My Life?

Where Have You Been All My Life?
(Domino Recording Co Ltd)

Where Have You Been All My Life? is a new take on the concept of a live album. Rather than include cuts from concerts, this record is the result of one day in the studio, capturing the first or second take of each track. These minimalist arrangements highlight the strength of Conor O’Brien’s voice and the intimacy of his lyrics. “Memoir,” a track O’Brien originally wrote for Charlotte Gainsbourg, makes its Villagers debut here. The song captures the promiscuity of someone with a broken heart, and the fragility is echoed in O’Brien’s voice. “The Waves,” originally electro-tinged on {Awayland}, receives an extended instrumental intro that flows like the title suggests. On an album filled with acoustic content, this moment made me sit up and pay attention. Ultimately the trouble with Where Have You Been All My Life? is that there isn’t enough innovation to justify this being a stand-alone effort. It doesn’t bring the energy that you experience listening to a concert performance, and while it’s nice to hear a sleepy, brassy cover of “Wichita Lineman,” that doesn’t make this record an essential buy. A Villagers completist or someone who has never seen the band live may adore this album, but for most, it might be like a gig after all: played once and remembered fondly.

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Villagers: Where Have You Been All My Life?