Fever Dreams, the latest album from Villagers (the artistic project of Dublin’s Conor O’Brien), presents one of the hardest conundrums in reviewing music.   It’s an album that inspires repeat listens.  Many of the tracks have found a home either on blog or personal playlists.  It spins you in a cyclone of emotions.  Yet it’s difficult to describe how O’Brien uses slight warbles, glitches, and vocal inflection to make serene sounds to create such an emotional impact.   

Similarities to works from Tame Impala, Pink Floyd, and The Flaming Lips will come to mind.  However, even if we mixed those bands together, we still wouldn’t get a sound quite like this offering from Villagers. The next impulse is to go with words like psychedelic, dreamy, contemplative.  Yet psychedelic inspires visions of warping guitar chords; Fever Dreams is more along the lines of hazy folk rock.  And dreamy implies optimistic, floaty…perhaps even idyllic, which forgets the healthy dose of roiling turmoil the album also brings to the table.  Likewise, contemplative suggests a voluntary journey of realization.  It fails to recognize the chaotic world thrust upon us in slumber—sometimes joyful, often unexplainable, and fully capable of leaving you sitting bolt upright in sweaty anxiety.  That is the world of Fever Dreams.

Enter the newly released video for “Circles In the Firing Line,” a song that is arguably the posterchild for an album of dream-state twists and turns.  The video created by video director Rosie Barrett with the help of motion designer Cian McKenna, encapsulates the sheer art madness of Fever Dreams.  Watching a collage and cartoon created version of O’Brien traversing a dystopian world on foot, through freefall, and riding a seagull through rings of fire says more about the heart of Fever Dreams than 2,000 words could convey in a long-form review.

While “Circles In the Firing Line” may be one of the best examples of the album’s style, it also captures its sharpest angst.  Other album highlights are built around the same soundscape of drifting lucidity but give us a more peaceful dreamworld. “So Simpatico,” explores love—seeking it, finding it, and embracing it. Lead single, “The First Day,” almost feels joyful as it embraces the human need to be connected with others.  Its message is bittersweet, having been written during a time when distancing has become part of our humanity.  These tracks also have amazing videos that do a wonderful job of bringing the songs to life.  

Villagers have created a complete album where wisps of fantasy and reality collide. Each song is a brush stroke that culminates in the final work of art that is Fever Dreams.

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Featured photo credit of Villagers by Rich Gilligan