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Villagers: Surviving From One Moment To The Next

The most important five words of Villagers' "Pieces" are the first five, and they go by so quickly, so casually, that it's easy to overlook them as mere filler. "For a long, long time," Conor O'Brien sings right at the start of the song, "I've been in pieces," and with that introduction, he establishes that his anguish isn't new or even recently deteriorated. It's chronic, something not easily dismissed or rectified, which is reflected in the way he keeps coming back to those words: "For a long, long time."

All this happens while the music itself seems to breathe as a living organism. After beginning with the high piano triplets and strings of late-night doo-wop, O'Brien pulls back and then lets the song expand a bit before easing off again. Another swell is followed by another retreat.

It seems to be tentative, and maybe the broken man confessing his flaws is, but O'Brien the singer and musician knows exactly what he's doing. It's not a linear climb to the howling orchestral sweep at the end but a constant renegotiation of how much to give away. At one point during the second verse, he's left almost entirely alone, as though he's waving off the instruments getting in his way. He's a wreck putting everything he has into making it from one moment to the next, just as he has been for a long, long time.

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Marc Hirsh lives in the Boston area, where he indulges in the magic trinity of improv comedy, competitive adult four square and music journalism. He has won trophies for one of these, but refuses to say which.
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