Villagers, “Darling Arithmetic”
Conor O’Brien—better known as Villagers—is the latest within a long line of strikingly melodic Irish singer-songwriters that invite listeners to daydream about the lush and green motherland. On his latest LP, O’Brien successfully plays up his Irish charm a whit without exploiting any overarching sort of “Dublinness.” To be sure, though, “Dawning on Me” and “Little Bigot” could have been recorded in a Guinness-soaked corner of the local pub. If there are complaints about Darling Arithmetic, they would regard the group’s tendency to slip into a stripped-down version of Coldplay-quality mawkishness (“Hot Scary Summer” is neither hot, nor scary), and O’Brien’s rather unwaveringly twee vocal histrionics. But those concerns are hushed when listening to the hauntingly languid “The Soul Serene” or the magically curious, ethereal riff on ragtime in the form of “No One to Blame.” “I believe that I’m part of something bigger,” O’Brien reckons on album closer “So Naïve.” If he inverted that sentiment, there’s no telling where he might go.