Villagers pulled off a unique double when their first two albums won Mercury Prize nominations and the good news for their fans is ‘Darling Arithmetic’ is the best yet.
To understand Villagers it is necessary to see that they are not a regular group, but a vehicle for the singular vision of Conor O’Brien who not only writes all the tunes, but recorded them in the loft of his home just outside Dublin. Not content with that he played all the instruments, even using one of his loos as an ad-hoc vocal booth.
The result is a lovingly crafted record full of subtle piano – and even some old school Mellotron – that at times is painfully honest about the trials and tribulations of love. You sense the intense, claustrophic Hot Scary Summer with its reference to homophobes may be autobiographical, and to be honest you won’t hear a better single than Courage with its deceptively catchy hook.
O’Brien has the voice of an angel which underpins these emotionally complex, demanding songs and his vocal on Soul Serene just lifts the spirits.
It was interesting that on Record Store Day punters reported buying vinyl copies of records by the great songwriters like Joni, and in years to come all three Villagers albums will become sought after collector’s items like this must have gem.