“Hot Scary Summer” lifts a poignant prayer of catharsis

Villager’s soulful voice echoes mournfully like delicate, unforgettable art

It’s something in the lazy way that the cameraman drifts around and around this lone guitarist, slowly revealing more and more. And the way the singer Conor O’Brien pours every remaining fiber of his soul into the vocals. And the way that his tones echo and reverberate in what appears to be the most perfect possible acoustics for an live performance of a song. And the way the lyrics and emotion of the song tell an impressionistic, transporting undertow of emotion and catharsis. And the way it ends, like this is merely a small chunk of a far greater, perhaps even more beautiful whole.

The Take Away Show visual formula has become routine, even unsurprising. But then you realize that what you are watching could not possibly be better or more inspiringly realized, and you realize how easy it is to forgive that you’ve seen all this before. Take Away Shows constitute a good number of my favorite live performance videos ever, and for good reason. Usually impromptu-seeming, often outdoors or in public places in urban settings like New York or Paris. The artists are often shoulder to friends, fans, or onlookers, or accompanied by band members in unusual settings… near a river, in an intimate music store, on a roof, or among a crowd of strangers. The contrast and video quality is set high, and the filming is nearly always impeccable and introspective. And the artists with very few exceptions, simply shine.

Villagers is an Irish indie folk group that’s only been around a little while but has toured with the likes of Tracy Chapman and Neil Young. We’re dancing now in world of the heavily oversentimental but I really think that only the coldest and grouchiest of hearts wouldn’t find something to love here. We’re drawing to the close of a scorched, rainless summer which risked never particularly feeling like summer, in either opportunities for leisure or for adventure. But something in the lyrics speaks to my experience, in a way that I find difficult to pin down. As I was driving home today, I noticed that the leaves on the trees seemed thin as paper, and the yellowed grass seemed shock to have had even the briefest of watering by morning rainfall. The plants I see seem to be gasping for life, drinking in the desperately-needed downpour and hardly noticing, it had gotten so bad.

It’s a song about fatigue, and paranoia, about working too hard and starting to feel the effects, with little to show for it ultimately, and about the rare moments when wild indescribable beauty and joy emerges at a time when it’s desperately-needed, like precious rainfall to the drought-ravaged West. The lyrics speak of glowing idealism and marvelous, delicate soulfulness that dances off cathedral walls like fairy dust, raining down and drowning us in unbridled, poignant emotion and epiphany. It’s about prayer, and hope, and companionship, and that tugging feeling in your throat when it feels like everything can be, just possibly, exactly how you hoped in younger days that it could be. It’s the gasping release you feel, when you see that beautiful rain pouring down, and when you feel the scorched ashes of summer gradually swept away.

And you look up, the sun shines down, and somehow, the future seems less scary.

Si belle! Another tour de force Take Away Show. Check it out, asap!

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