Album: Becoming a Jackal
Release date: June 8
Rating (Skip, Stream, or Buy): Stream
Download: "Becoming a Jackal"
Villagers' debut LP, Becoming a Jackal, went to number one the week it was released - in Ireland. The folk band is the brainchild of an adorable little Dubliner named Conor O'Brien (I said Conor, not Conan) and is currently making a go of breaking it in the U.S. (They will play Capitol Hill Block Party on Sunday, July 25). Well, America liked Damien Rice, and we liked Sondre Lerche, so I'm betting we'll also catch on to Villagers.
Becoming a Jackal is a collection of lovely, soothing songs, with soft piano runs and O'Brien's earnest, quivering tenor. The melodies aren't always solid or convincing, but in terms of lyrics, this record absolutely shines. O'Brien has a talent for metaphor and poetic phrasing; his songs recall the old days of balladry and story-telling troubadours, with words that are both picturesque ("It's been days since I left on this ship of promises") and wonderfully honest ("My love is selfish/ And I bet that yours is too.") The title track stands out -- "Becoming a Jackal" hums with simple guitar strums and bass notes; it's about watching someone get ripped apart by some presumably metaphorical jackals. The song has a heavenly chorus in which O'Brien chants, "I was a dreamer/ Staring at windows/ Out onto the main street/ 'Cause that's where the dream goes." It's a stunner; hopefully O'Brien writes more gems like this in what seems will be a fruitful career.