Villagers – Darling Arithmetic

Villagers – Darling Arithmetic

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This is Conor O’Brien’s coming out album. “It’s not a news story”, he told The Irish Times, “Man is gay”. Quite right. What’s the big deal? Well, it’s a big deal for Conor O’Brien, who was motivated to compose a bunch of songs about it. From the very first words we’re in typically elusive Villagers territory, but this time we know for sure what’s being communicated. “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”. Yet what makes Darling Arithmetic so compelling is that it’s not just a coming out album. This is an album about love. Falling in love. Falling out of love. Cleaning up after love. Falling back in love again. Now, this should always be a big deal. And it certainly is for Conor O’Brien. There’s a whole album of songs about it. As usual, there’s a wonderful turn of phrase. “See there’s a mystery in your eyes, A kind of swimming pool for swimming fools like me”. And there’s a warmth that at times has been missing before. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, the album is at its very best when the two themes combine. “We’ve always been up against it”, we hear on ‘Hot Scary Summer’, “But now it’s sad to see that we’re up against each other”. The wonder of this album, like the previous Villagers albums, lies in the constant allusiveness. But on a couple of occasions the equivalent of the fourth wall is broken. “Take the blame”, we’re told on Little Bigot, “And throw that hatred on the fire”. The sentiments are unimpeachable, but the spell is broken for just a second or two. By its very nature Darling Arithmetic is different from its predecessors. The raw emotion of Becoming A Jackal is absent. And the almost exhausting logorrhea of {Awayland} has run its course at least for now. In its place there’s an openness and a tenderness. A love in all its forms.

Pitchfork review

The Irish Times review

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