Darling Arithmetic

Album Review of Darling Arithmetic by Villagers.

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Darling Arithmetic

Villagers

Darling Arithmetic by Villagers

Release Date: Apr 14, 2015
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Alternative Pop/Rock

69 Music Critic Score
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Darling Arithmetic - Fairly Good, Based on 13 Critics

The Line of Best Fit - 85
Based on rating 8.5/10
85

There’s having your debut album nominated for the Mercury Prize, and then there’s having both your first two albums nominated for the Mercury Prize. Villagers can proudly boast that rare accolade after 2010’s Becoming a Jackal and 2013’s {Awayland} were both shortlisted for the prestigious award. Neither album won, which is perhaps not such a bad thing given the trend for bands and artists to experience a drop in form after getting their hands on critical glory.

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Paste Magazine - 82
Based on rating 8.2/10
82

By the third time through, the nine songs on Villagers’ new album sound like you’ve known them all your life. Darling Arithmetic isn’t as immediately gripping as Becoming a Jackal, Conor O’Brien’s 2010 debut as Villagers, or as ornately arranged as the 2013 follow-up, {Awayland}, but O’Brien’s latest is easily his richest work so far. That’s largely because the Irish singer has never been so forthright.

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PopMatters - 80
Based on rating 8/10
80

Originally the brainchild of musical wunderkind Conor O’Brien, Villagers have chalked up some remarkable accomplishment in their relatively short tenure, including Ireland’s highly coveted Choice Prize and consecutive nominations for the prestigious Mercury Prize for each of their first two albums (Becoming a Jackal and Awayland). O’Brien, who played every note on those early efforts, eventually yielded some of those responsibilities by expanding his one-man palette to encompass an entire band, with fellow travelers Tommy McLaughlin, Danny Snow, James Byrne and Cormac Curran also engaged in Villagers’ endeavors as well. Still, there’s little doubt even now who’s piloting Villagers’ progress, given that the sparse, evocative settings still carry the stamp of O’Brien’s solitary set-up.

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Exclaim - 80
Based on rating 8/10
80

Similar to how W. B. Yeats dreamt away humdrum city life on the Isle of Innisfree, Villagers' Conor O'Brien stole away to the privacy of his country-home recording studio, north of Dublin, to conjure the charm of his band's latest album. The newly bearded bard escaped the daily grind sometime after the release of {Awayland} in 2013 and wrote, produced, and engineered a record that's, ironically, laden with everyday life.

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musicOMH.com - 80
Based on rating 4
80

With a 100% record for Mercury Prize nominations following their first two albums, Becoming A Jackal and {Awayland}, third collection Darling Arithmetic is a shoo-in for more of the same – occasionally bombastic – winning formula of folk rock from Villagers, right? Not so. Main man Conor O’Brien has chosen a different approach, although perhaps not intentionally from the outset. Villagers have always been O’Brien’s baby, but Darling Arithmetic goes the whole hog.

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Drowned In Sound - 70
Based on rating 7/10
70

When you weigh it up, you really shouldn't get away with a line like "See there's a mystery in your eyes; a kind of swimming pool for swimming fools like me…"". Conor O'Brien, sequestered away in solitary confines, not only deftly dodges the pratfall, he laces the surrounding area with knowing heart. As chieftain of Villagers, the Dublin native has been infusing his work with raw empathy ever since he cut his teeth in The Immediate.

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Pitchfork - 70
Based on rating 7.0/10
70

"It 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," sings Conor O’Brien on the first track to Villagers’ new album. As opening lines go, it’s hard to get more direct than that. It’s fitting then that the song itself is called "Courage"—a phenomenon that the Villagers’ frontman describes as "a feeling like no other, let me tell you.

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The 405 - 70
Based on rating 7/10
70

Head here to submit your own review of this album. If Villagers' 2010 debut Becoming A Jackal was the occasionally naïve but unquestionably brilliant introduction to the talents of one Conor O'Brien, then 2013 follow up Awayland was the assured confirmation of a new exciting voice in Irish indie-folk. Those who are anticipating more of the same from this third outing however, may wish to readjust their expectations.

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AllMusic - 60
Based on rating 6/10
60

Coming off Villagers' highly touted, Mercury Prize-nominated debut, 2010's Becoming a Jackal, singer/songwriter Conor J. O'Brien updated his group's atmospheric baroque pop sound with the addition of various synthesizers and drum machines, as well as creative collaboration with a working group of bandmates. Subsequently, Villagers' sophomore album, 2013's wayland, was an even more robust, sonically layered production.

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DIY Magazine - 60
Based on rating 3/5
60

“It took a little time to get where I wanted…” is the opening thought of Villagers’ third album, ‘Darling Arithmetic’. It’s a familiar feeling of openness and closeness that Conor O’Brien, the man behind the Villagers moniker offers. Instantly you’re presented with something that’s half a diary entry and half a poem. What’s really different here, third time around, is that this isn’t a starting point from which to spring surprises, there’s no disorientating change of pace, no intimidating raise in tension.

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The Observer (UK) - 40
Based on rating 2/5
40

Previously known for two Mercury-nominated albums that began as indie folk and expanded to an orchestral band set-up, Villagers – that’s Dubliner Conor O’Brien – has made an album of intimate love-gone-wrong songs. With acoustic guitars, piano and bruised croons, there’s now not a lot separating the previously quirky O’Brien from more quotidian star-crossed singers, less Bright Eyes, you could say, and more Damien Rice. A few more like the angry Little Bigot (“Take that hatred and throw it on the fire,” it goes, over a three-legged rhythm) or the minor-key plucked swing of So Naive and Darling Arithmetic would add up to more than just another record in which devastation is mourned too mellifluously.

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The Guardian - 40
Based on rating 2/5
40

Conor O’Brien, the Irish, cardigan-wearing type behind Villagers, doesn’t exactly make it easy for himself. He has song titles like Everything I Am Is Yours and Occupy Your Mind. His quavering voice is so delicate it should come with a handwash-only sign. And he once wrote a song that began with a line about brushing your teeth naked on the toilet.

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The New York Times
Their review was positive

Conor O’Brien, the discerning Irish singer-songwriter behind Villagers, began his career in a shroud of complicated solitude. The debut Villagers album — “Becoming a Jackal,” released on Domino in 2010 — was an impressively layered production in which he played almost all the parts, singing about appearances and perception. His 2013 follow-up, “{Awayland},” featured a proper crew of musicians, a stronger rhythmic push, and a more guarded eloquence.

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