Each Villagers album feels like the next instalment in an ongoing narrative, with every new chapter furthering the story and adding colour to the world it occupies. As the music becomes abstract in its bombast, Fever Dreams sounds as if we’re deep within Act 2, where everything is happening simultaneously, and the stakes have been raised.
Therefore, it is interesting thematically that Fever Dreams begins with the short but texturally dense snippet of ‘Something Bigger’. Setting the scene sonically, this introduction gives way to the joyously large-scale musicality of ‘The First Day’, wherein Villagers open and close the scope with widescreen choruses and intimate verses.
Indeed, Fever Dreams is the sound of Conor O’Brien playing with the size and scale of music. Confident in its construct and dreamlike mood, the album carries the central abstraction of its songwriting and ambition of its production with clarity. From the twinkling foreground and indie finale of ‘Circles In The Firing Line’ to the pensive sense of space on ‘Full Faith In Providence’ and the brass infused brilliance of ‘Song In Seven’, the record shifts and changes shape. All the while maintaining a core sonic thread with Villagers past.
However, it’s the pocket epic ‘So Simpatico’ that steals the show. Coming in at just over seven minutes, Conor O’Brien is at the height of his powers with a song so big in scale and ambition that it’s hard not to smile whilst listening. Everything is thrown into the mix, ensuring the length of the track never exceeds its welcome. A stunning piece in and of itself.
And so it goes, Villagers story continues into the weird and the wonderful. It’s easy to expect greatness from Villagers and not be surprised when said excellence is achieved. But Fever Dreams finds Conor O’Brien setting a high bar and vaulting right over it. There’s a thread here that can be found all the way back to Becoming A Jackal pulled through in Darling Arithmetic and threaded once more into the immense tapestry of Fever Dreams. If this is indeed Act 2, then it’s been a compelling story with plenty of twists and turns so far.