Album review: Villagers – ‘Becoming A Jackal’ (Domino)

Acoustic melancholy, done properly

Risen from the ashes of his last outfit The Immediate, whose brief, but highly lauded career spanned just one
album, Irish native Conor O’Brien has re-emerged under a new guise and has set about reminding fans why they fell in love with him the first time around. There’s depth, sincerity and beauty in abundance here, from the quietly menacing opener ‘I Saw The Dead’, with its swirling keys and repetitious percussion and the gently funereal ‘The Meaning Of The Ritual’ to the elegant backing vocals of ‘Home’. The delicate acoustic number ‘To Be Counted Among Men’ is reminiscent of Elliott Smith in its bare, intimate vocals while the impressive ‘Pieces’ is five minutes of pure heartbreak. Strings swoon and a piano gently tinkles, while O’Brien’s smooth, distinctive voice soars from restrained to unleashed. He artfully manages to remain playful and avoid smooshiness by descending unexpectedly into a deliciously hearty howl while an orchestral din builds until it is literally the sound of heart strings being sawn.

Tessa Harris

Click here to get your copy of Villagers’ ‘Becoming A Jackal’ from the Rough Trade shop.