Villagers – Becoming a Jackal

January 01, 1970

(Domino)

www.dominorecordco.com

 

They’re being hailed as one of the most illuminating outfits
on the generally low-lit nu-folk scene, but the brilliance of the Villagers
doesn’t derive from the tastemakers’ plaudits. Rather, it’s their exquisite
arrangements and imaginative instrumentation that makes their songs so
gorgeously luminous. Helmed by musical wunderkind Connor O’Brien – who plays
practically every note here single-handedly – this veritable one man band subs
for a communal combo, with sweeping strings, nimble keyboards and a soaring
falsetto that rounds out every nuance. Like Bon Iver and Iron and Wine, two
outfits with whom Villagers share a similar style, O’Brien is especially adept
at creating a weary ambiance that stirs the emotions, even in the most solemn
of circumstance. Whether it’s the throbbing undertow of “Ship of Promises,” the
resounding choruses of “That Day” or the brittle, barbed circumspect of “Home,”
O’Brien succeeds in manipulating the dynamic and imbuing subtle nuances that
become evident only after repeated encounters.

 

To be sure, it’s that elusive quality that makes Becoming a Jackal so fascinating. It’s
not so much a full-on assault, but rather a seductive allure that permeates
each of its offerings. Only “The Pact (I’ll Be Your Fever),” an unusual example
of Villagers in proprietary pop mode, and “Twenty-Seven Strangers,” a sobering
narrative that’s both strikingly beautiful and cinematically suggestive,
provide the most immediate accessibility. Regardless, music this alluring
doesn’t come along all that often. To turn a phrase, it takes Villagers to duly
impress.

 

Standout
Tracks:
“Twenty-Seven Strangers,” “That Day,” Home” LEE ZIMMERMAN

 

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