ALBUM REVIEW | Singer/songwriter

Villagers, ‘{Awayland}”

“{Awayland}” begins as it must, with the gentle acoustic plucking of “My Lighthouse” recapitulating the heavy sigh of the Villagers’ debut, “Becoming a Jackal.” Frontman Conor J. O’Brien knows he has to reassure fans before exploring new itches. Smart move, since it’s hard to say how they would have responded had follow-up track “Earthly Pleasure” been first; with its circular ostinatos and odd, compressed momentum, it uses analog instrumentation to mimic digital glitchiness. Which isn’t to say that “{Awayland}” is a dramatic departure — O’Brien’s voice still adds an unsettling quiet to everything — only that it’s a more fitful album than “Jackal.” “Nothing Arrived” has the soul of a koan even as its simple piano and jangling guitar afford it a Springsteenian grandeur, while “Judgement Call” rides a groove of bass, marimba, and blips. None of it’s fatal. But on “Jackal,” O’Brien’s digressive songwriting was held together by a unifying palette. Here, he’s all over the place. (Out Tuesday)


ESSENTIAL “Nothing Arrived”