Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Villagers on shortlist for Mercury Music Prize

WE ARE delighted to receive the news that Conor J. O'Brien - now better known as leader of Dublin band Villagers - has been nominated for a Mercury Music Prize for his superb, sparkling debut album Becoming a Jackal.
The shortlist was revealed in London earlier today and the winning album will be announced on 7 September.

The full list is:

Biffy Clyro “Only Revolutions” (14th Floor)

Corinne Bailey Rae “The Sea” (EMI)

Dizzee Rascal “Tongue N’ Cheek” (Dirtee Stank)

Kit Downes Trio “Golden’ (Basho)

Foals “Total Life Forever” (Transgressive)

I Am Kloot “Sky At Night (Shepherd Moon/EMI)

Laura Marling “I Speak Because I Can” (Virgin)

Mumford And Sons “Sigh No More” (Island)

Paul Weller “Wake Up The Nation” (Island)

Villagers “Becoming A Jackal” (Domino)

Wild Beasts “Two Dancers” (Domino)

The xx “xx” (XL)

A lot of great albums on there, particularly I Am Kloot and Laura Marling's offerings, which are both enrapturing. The Foals album, I thought, failed to hit the heights of their debut Antidotes, while Paul Weller's inclusion is frankly bizarre. Dizzee and The XX have immediately been installed as favourites, and after last year's Speech Debelle debacle, it is thought that the judges will be under pressure to reward a popular winner. Therefore keep an eye on Mumford and Sons, but our money is on Villagers, simply because it is one of our favourite albums, full stop. Review below from when it was released, if you need a refresher. We know that plans are afoot to bring Villagers back to Limerick also, so stay tuned here for updates..


‘Becoming A Jackal’


RARELY has an Irish album release been accompanied with such universal expectation. Likewise, it is rare that such expectation is accompanied by a fulfilment of potential.This is the exception to the rule.

Villagers - essentially Conor J. O’Brien - finally release debut album Becoming A Jackal after whetting many appetites with the superb Hollow Kind EP, released in February of last year.The first Irish act signed to trendy UK record label Domino (home to Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys etc), this is an album that began life as a nameless collection of musical poems, but has become a heart-wrenching, melodic odyssey that should see O’Brien become the biggest act to come out of Ireland in many moons.

O’Brien was once in The Immediate, who imploded just as rave reviews began to see them appear set for stardom, and then spent the latter part of the last two years touring as Cathy Davey’s guitarist - notably standing out in her shows. But O’Brien was always meant for bigger and better things, such is the vividness of his lyrics, and the epic soaring scale of his vocals and musicianship (he recorded this album largely by himself with the help of producer Tommy McLaughlin).

This is quite simply a stunning album, one that will inevitably see the Dubliner compared to Eliot Smith or Conor Oberst, but there is more of a older-style feel to his debut, epic at times, subtle in others, not unlike Neil Young’s Harvest in that sense, for example.

Indeed, on the superb title track and first single, O’Brien channels Simon and Garfunkel in a song with off-kilter rhythms and popping bass lines, mixed in with soaring harmonies. It is something of a relief in the middle of two dark and subversive songs - the eerie I Saw The Dead and the unsettling and up-tempo Ship of Promises.The Meaning of the Ritual follows, one of two songs included here that was also on the EP (the other being Pieces, in which O’Brien moves from slow, Burt-Bacarach croon to a wild, howling, finish - think Radiohead recreating the Beatles’ orchestral antics on A Day In The Life), and has been tweaked to include some impressive horn sections.

But it is the gentle lullaby of Home that is the centre-piece of this album, and shows a lighter, more playful side of the musician. The Crosby, Stills and Nash-esque The Pact is another standout, as is the subtle Set The Tigers Free.Subtle is a defining word for this album, one that crawls under your skin, O’Brien’s lyrical abilities literally eye-opening in scale.

Quite simply, this is the finest Irish album released in many years.


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