Friday, September 10, 2010

“Becoming a Jackal” (Villagers)

I was recently driving along and listening to the World Cafe on NPR when I heard an amazing track that the show’s host, David Dye, later said was by an Irish band called Villagers. I made a quick note but sort of forgot about it when I got home.

A few days ago, I was at Starbucks and noticed a card for a free iTunes download for a track by a band called Villagers. “Hmm,” I thought, as I poured half and half into a cup of Earl Grey. “Villagers. That sounds familiar.” I dropped the card into my bag and headed home, but then I sort of forgot about it.

Yesterday, I was watching an interview with Glen Hansard on YouTube, shot during the Electric Picnic festival that was held last week in County Laois. During the interview, RTÉ Radio 1 host Philip King talks about what he calls a “golden age” of Irish music happening at the moment. And one of the names he threw out was Villagers.

And then, WHAM! It all came together like one of those movie montages where the main character’s life flashes before his eyes. Fate had been trying to get my attention, and I finally stopped for a second and noticed.

Conor O’Brien — who is Villagers, or fronts Villagers; I can’t quite figure it out — has a crazy-mesmerizing, haunting, addictive voice. He does remind me vaguely of someone ... but who is it? David Gray? Morrissey? Simon & Garfunkel? It’s sort of all of those, and none of them, at the same time. I know he’s unique and incomparable, and but there is something rich and atmospheric about his music that puts me in mind of those once and current greats. Either way, I am seriously loving it.

My favorites so far are the home sessions that are posted on YouTube. When someone sounds like that when he’s just hanging out in his kitchen, you know it’s quality.


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