Review: The Art of Pretending to Swim by Villagers

The Art of Pretending to Swim by VillagersWhenever one listens to a Villagers album one is transported to a different world. It’s not the sort where you make mystical references to imaginary things: in fact, you know you’re still in this frame, but the references and vantage points are just more different than usual. Conor O’Brien has managed to build that world and keep it that way across his work, and on his fourth record The Art of Pretending to Swim, he builds it further into what perhaps is the best form of his work. Well, not exactly, but then that’s down to personal taste. The first half of the record see them go for lush instrumentation and textured arrangements, making songs like lead “A Trick of the Light” sing. Their approaches are multi-faceted, as proved by the ambient-of-the-different-kind “Love Came With All That It Brings”. Sure, by the second half they settle into a more familiar version of their sound, which scuttles the momentum a bit, but the complexities continue to lurk, and by the time “Ada” closes the record it’s all back into view. The Art of Pretending to Swim still pushes the boundaries far enough for Villagers, and what a treat it is to listen to. [NB]4/5

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