Villagers - Becoming A Jackal

Sounding completely lost in time, there’s many moments that jolt and enthral.

Making sweeping statements about record labels is difficult terrain, but even so we feel that it can be said with confidence that a release being on Domino guarantees a certain level of quality. The label have had a tremendous past eighteen months, releasing more critically acclaimed and commercially successful albums than we care to mention, and now – in terms of quality at least, ‘Becoming A Jackal’ is the icing on the cake.

A darkly enveloping gothic folk-pop record, this debut from Irish group Villagers in many ways seems like an impossible record. What has allowed this to exist is far from known but much appreciated. Sounding completely lost in time there’s many moments that jolt and enthral. ‘I Saw the Dead’ opens the record and is seen out by an hypnotic drone that’s abruptly cut off by a snap of drums that never fails to disturb the listener from their trance. It’s not the only second on the record that warrants particular mention; the washes of keyboard underpin the pulsing rock of ‘Ship Of Promises’, grounding the song in the modern day despite the playfully archaic lyrics.

As a craftsman of lyrics, the man behind Villagers, Conor O’Brien, is unparalleled amongst artists this new to the game. Whilst there is come comparisons between him and Conor Oberst it is only the occasional acoustic number that in any way qualifies this. For the most part said comparisons are lazy and based solely on the sharing of a first name and creating vaguely folky music. In truth O’Brien is far closer to Nick Cave with a lower bodycount or Arcade Fire without the bombast. He in other words very good.

Although Villagers music is frequently very layered and incorporating of both quieter folk elements and more conventional electric indie rock it’s when it’s stripped down does it become most effective. ‘The Meaning Of The Ritual’ with it’s distant church organ and gently strummed acoustic guitar and ‘Home’, that focuses on some very tight vocal harmonies with rhythmic pounding of floor toms are prime examples of what we mean here and take the album to it’s midpoint.

There’s no point in us ruining all of the surprises and imagery spun by Villagers as it’s something much better experienced aurally. In a year that’s seen very little in the way of memorable debut records Villagers and ‘Becoming A Jackal’ sticks in the mind. We’re simply left wondering how Domino manages to get a monopoly on talent of this calibre.

Tags: Villagers, Reviews, Album Reviews

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