Album Review

Villages - Dark Island

With a commitment to creating contemporary folk music, Villages shares a communal bond.

Villages - Dark Island Album Cover
February 13, 2023 11:50 am GMT

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Villages takes their devotion to a folkish noir quite seriously, drawing on its evocative imagery and a sound spawned from idealism and imagination. Like their fellow travelers Fleet Foxes, Watchhouse, Hiss Golden Messenger and Blitzen Trapper, they’re unafraid of bending a few boundaries in order to fully explore the depths and textures that might otherwise remain obscured.

Dark Island, the Canadian combo’s sophomore set, shares that folk finesse with a subtle and supple sound that reflects their native surroundings, which extend from the province of Nova Scotia and out towards the rugged coastline of Cape Breton Island. The results manifest in a series of evocative soundscapes and aural encounters, all draped in atmospheric ambiance. It’s both regal and reflective, captivating and compelling, plied through the textures of Villages’ majestic melodies.

The band’s delivery allows the music to make an immediate and emphatic impression. ‘Dawnless Nights’ conveys an anthemic urgency that ultimately seems to rocket skyward. Even when Villages appear more circumspect, that sense of drive and determination still manages to remain intact. It’s not uncommon to hear them whoop, holler and express the unabashed enthusiasm that defines practically every entry. ‘Lost Again’, ‘Play the Fiddle All Night’, ‘Pink & Grey’ and ‘Willow’ ring with a robust authority that’s never lacking in credence. The music soars and surges from the first song to the last.

That’s not to say Villages are bereft of levity; there’s a certain cheeriness implied in ‘Wearing Through the Pine’, the upbeat and engaging ‘Love Will Live On’ and the poppier pretext of ‘Easy When You Know How.’

Credit the latter to a Celtic influence, one closely tied to their maritime origins. It’s clearly expressed through their relentless refrains and an eager enthusiasm that’s all but impossible to ignore. Ultimately, Dark Island offers nothing less than a true communal embrace.

8/10

Villages' 2023 album, Dark Island, is released February 17th via Icon Brother Music.

Written by Lee Zimmerman
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