by / April 12th, 2015 /

Villagers – Darling Arithmetic

 1/5 Rating

(Domino)

It was October last year, the weekend of HWCH to be exact, that State found ourselves talking to a clearly cheery and somewhat relaxed Conor O’Brien. He had just that day finished his new album, he told us, and was in the mood to celebrate. ‘He’ – not ‘we’ – a small point but one that makes a huge amount of sense now, as that record sees the light of day as Darling Arithmetic. The blurring of the lines between solo performer and band as Villagers has always suited O’Brien, enabling him to travel light when needs be and bolster when similarly required. Whereas {Awayland} felt like a band affair and was a work that added colour and depth to his palette, album number three is a return the sound of a man alone – written, recorded, produced and mixed by the singer himself. While not a completely stripped down, bare work it’s certainly a far simpler outing than its predecessor. No wonder he considered it his and his alone.

Yet Darling Arithmetic isn’t a small work, no matter what the method of creation. The opening lines of ‘Courage’ tell you perhaps all you need to know – “took a little time to get where I wanted, it took a little time to get free. It took a little time to be honest, it took a little time to be me”. It’s the difference between this and the similarly record Becoming A Jackal, with O’Brien’s creative eye turning inwards as opposed to writing songs about characters. “I took a little lover but then we parted”, he continues and the theme for the record is set – love and loss, something that he proves to be very adept at chronicling.

Much interest has centred around the nature of the relationship and the brief moments when O’Brien touches on his experiences as a gay man – the “pretty young homophobes looking out for a fight” line on ‘Hot Scary Summer’, ‘Little Bigot’ and its recurring “throw that hatred on the fire” motif – but, as the latter song points out, “love is all” and it’s a universal experience. Thus there are experiences here that everyone will identify with, from first kisses to the dying of the romantic light – from ‘Everything I Am Is Yours’ to ‘No-one Is To Blame’. The record is littered with deft lyrical touches as he tries to make sense of events, all backed by a beautifully emotive musical tone. “I believe that I’m part of something bigger” he concludes on ‘So Naive’. If the opening line of Darling Arithmetic sends Conor O’Brien on a journey of discovery, its parting words (“”I guess I got it figured out”) sees him reach a destination of sorts. Travelling alongside him has been a privilege.

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