Fresh off being nominated for three GRAMMY Awards this year, Aoife O’Donovan shares an acoustic version of her third studio album, “Age of Apathy”. An eight-track collection showcasing her powerful emotive vocals and ability to strip something back to its core and discover more meaning when all semblance of bravado is gone.
When hearing about an album like this, sometimes you can be left a little disappointed. Acoustic versions of songs are usually preserved for Tiny Desk sets or during talk show appearances, providing a wonderful alternative to a loved tune. However, hearing an entire album’s worth of songs will be recreated is entirely different. It’s a risky venture to take, one that can end up as nothing more than a repetitive exercise, possibly ending up a little flat and forgetful.
This, however, can’t be said for this body of work. Aoife O’Donovan has created something memorable here, special and thoroughly worth exploring. Fans of the previous album will be able to further reflect on the strikingly self-reflective lyrics that they heard before, and new listeners will discover songs that perfectly showcase the brilliance of this artist.
When Aoife spoke about revisiting these songs, she signalled towards not looking to cover them but develop new meaning, digging deeper into the narrative and producing an evolved version of the track. When speaking about the first song on the album, ‘Phoenix’, Aoife said, “After Age of Apathy was complete, I sat down to record the songs simply, just me and my guitar, live. This was the first song on the album that I dug into. I discovered new colours that had been hiding in the shadows of newness, ready to enhance the story.” It’s a stunning rendition of the already brilliant song. Recorded in one take, it sets the tone perfectly on the album for the rest to follow.
‘Passengers’ is soon to follow up with its quicker-paced strumming, imagining a journey through interplanetary space, “watching galaxies collide”. It’s a nod to the uncertain world of the pandemic passing us by, followed by the happiness of finally moving forward to new beginnings. The song, stripped to its acoustic core, sounds brighter and more cheerful than ever, becoming almost infectiously optimistic.
Since the release of Age of Apathy, comparisons have been made between Aoife O’Donovan and Joni Mitchell, and in hearing these acoustic versions, it’s easier to see why. Most notably, this is seen on the title track ‘Age of Apathy’. It’s a song brimming with self-reflection, packed with a lifetime of memories in each passing verse; it’s like discovering someone’s photo album. It was a song already celebrated by critics and music lovers, and this version will surely delight once again in all of its newfound heartbreaking melancholic glory.
The original album was rightly applauded, deserving of all the recognition received; however, this new rendition is one of those albums you need to listen to to understand. It’s the type of album that perfectly encapsulates the hypnotic, soulful power of Aoife’s voice, alongside the ability to hang comfortably in the silence between notes.
Aoife creates a wistful, melancholic, and sometimes dreamy mood in the songs. The scarcity of instruments encourages us to feel the music and put ourselves in the landscape she’s painting lyrically. It’s like stumbling across the Snyder Cut version. Aoife’s very own director’s cut of Age of Apathy will bring us deeper into the original stories this album first delivered, allowing us to rediscover and redefine all new sides of its brilliance.
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