If you write, produce and play every instrument on an album, I assume you’d be comfortable enough to drop the pretence that your ‘band’ was anything other than a solo project. But not Conor O’Brien, who has been recording charming folk under the collective name of Villagers since 2010.

This latest foray sees him turn back the clock; stripping his sound to its bare bones, coupling simple acoustics to driving percussion, vocal murmurations and thoughtful lyrics. O’Brien’s greatest triumph is his genuine talent, so it’s very hard to find fault in his work, from the beautiful, faltering vocals of ‘Courage’ and the recursive mellifluousness of ‘Dawning On Me’, to the unsettling atmospherics of ‘The Soul Serene’. His lyrics are the star, but if there is a problem, it’s the repetitive folksy nature of his music which – whilst very nice in isolation – begins to feel derivative when viewed as an entire album.

It’s true O’Brien may not need friends in the studio, but sometimes a little collaboration can add up to a richer experience.


More from