First Listen: Villagers, 'Darling Arithmetic'

April 6, 2015 3:03 AM

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Villagers began as a lush one-man band with 2010's Becoming A Jackal, then morphed into an even more complex collaborative effort in time for 2013's {Awayland}, as Dublin singer-songwriter Conor O'Brien learned to work with a team he'd assembled. A natural progression would involve Villagers exploring that full-band dynamic further in the pursuit of higher orchestral peaks, but Darling Arithmetic finds O'Brien reversing course completely: He sings and plays every instrument himself, for an album that feels surprisingly muted.

Fortunately, that retreat from the lushness of {Awayland} leads to songs performed with intimacy and refreshing clarity. Each track isn't delivered at a whisper so much as a conversational murmur, with soft flourishes joining percussion that's mostly limited to the loping pitter-pat heard in "Courag...

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