Villagers - Darling Arithmetic

by Nathan Fidler Rating:8 Release Date:2015-04-13

Darling Arithmetic is the third full-length album from Villagers in five years, showing them to be industrious artists, but the understated quality of each of their albums is surely proof that they are one of the best bands of the decade.

One of the biggest shifts you’ll find on this offering is a more direct style to the lyrics of Conor O’Brien. Becoming a Jackal had a metamorphosis, while {Awayland} was a dreamlike state, but this album does away with any enchanting or ethereal elements, replacing it with more straightforward expressions.

‘Everything I Am is Yours’ is the perfect example of this, with simple guitar strums and the vow to “be right, sickness and in health/ in the darkness and the light”. Don’t mistake this new lyrical style as dumbing down, however. There is still a beautiful poetry to the songs on this album. “Remember kissing on the cobble stones/ in the heat of the night/ and all the pretty young homophobes/ looking out for a fight” is a gem of passage, evoking memories as well as poking fun on ‘Hot Scary Summer’.

As much of a reputation Villagers have for being a gentle, quiet band, this album goes one step further. There is a sleepy quality to almost all the songs, making them well-crafted little lullabies. ‘The Soul Serene’ has a lazy but bouncy bassline carrying you to the soothing repetition of “chameleon dreams” and “soul serene”.

‘Little Bigot’ provides as high a tempo as you’ll find on this album but only really kicks things up a notch in the final third. The lack of any driving songs on this album leaves something of a problem, since the previous two albums had songs which forced you to sing along. There is no real uplifting song for this album like we were treated to with ‘Nothing Arrived’ or ‘The Pact – I’ll Be Your Fever’, making this an album strictly for listening to as you drift to sleep at night.

Soothing, gentle, still intelligent without being obtuse – there should be many award nominations for this album, although this band clearly isn’t in it for the winning, more for the love of the craft.

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