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Young Dubliner Conor J. O'Brien or as he likes to call himself, Villagers, is the mastermind behind the 11 varied, subtle, complex and plain gorgeous songs that are Becoming A Jackal. Conor plays all the instruments (except strings and french horn) and Becoming A Jackal was recorded in Villagers home studio, with Tommy McLaughlin engineering and co-producing alongside Conor. Becoming A Jackal is a startling intro to the gripping poetry and melodic depth of Conor J. O'Brien.
There's a bewitching, precocious charm about Conor O'Brien's debut album as Villagers. Having served his indie rock apprenticeship with angular guitar slingers, The Immediate, the Dubliner's solo offering is a different beast altogether and exudes an aura of maturity that belies his tender age.
At its core, Becoming a Jackal is an album of childhood fantasia, the inevitable changes that come with growing up and the environment in which this is experienced. Opener, I Saw the Dead, is sumptuously arranged evoking the bucolic splendour of O'Brian's home town, Dun Laoghaire, as well as Sub Pop's forgotten orch-pop nearly-star, Eric Matthews. The title-track displays the same feral, bottle-up-and-explode angst that typified Elliott Smith's clenched teeth missives: "When I got older, when I grew bolder, out on to the streets I flew". At odds with O'Brian's often disconcerting Gothic lyricism is the album's sonic tenor. Tracks like Ship of Promises and That Day romp by with a spectral sense of urgency as O'Brian sings on the former, "it takes you in and scrubs you clean, sanitises every dream", referring to his youthful church experiences; whilst the latter concerns the grim, unspoken "midnight fears" that pollute a relationship. Elsewhere, so affecting is Set the Tigers Free's saccharine shuffle and its tenderness near tangible that surely Roddy Frame would be jealous.
Becoming a Jackal clocks in at less than three-quarters of an hour but it feels longer, and this is one of the album's few flaws. O'Brien's earnest warbling has all the seriousness befitting a young man with the weight of the world upon his invariably frail shoulders, which can grate in one sitting. The dearth of any light amidst the swathes of shade reaches its nadir on Pieces, a maudlin waltz about as endearing as the type of music played at a wedding reception's twilight hour, wherein O'Brian howls–literally–at the song's conclusion.
Admittedly, such callow behaviour is a rarity here and we can forgive a young man for labouring the point. For the most part, this is a fine debut and speaks of even finer things to come. --Rich Hanscomb
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Bella Hardy has taken a different direction from her usual fair of stripped back traditional Folk.
"With the Dawn" is her seventh full length release and her most... Read more
Like it, may not be for everyone but it's a good mix and sits well in my slightly...ok very...eclectic music mixPublished 14 months ago by D. Powell
For a self-penned, self-recorded effort this is quite impressive. Try not to let the dark opening track put you off (and it is an odd choice to kick off with) - come back to it... Read morePublished 24 months ago by Craig Tankard
I bought this album after reading the above reviews and was expecting some previously unheralded masterpiece. Read morePublished on 9 Aug. 2013 by threewiseninjas
I love the sound of Connor's voice, and love the lyricism of the poetry. Played it loads and heard new things each time.Published on 30 July 2013 by dicoll