Villagers, Becoming a Jackal (Domino)
Twenty years after the innovative peak of the 1980s, the decade that saw bands ranging from U2 to Stump, from Microdisney to That Petrol Emotion, the creative well of Irish music appears to have run dry. The Irish music publication Hot Press never seems to be short of new bands and fresh singer-songwriters to shower with their praises, and yet very few of these ever reach the ferry to England, never mind the world beyond. Villagers, however, are good enough to reverse this trend and hopefully a host of others will follow in their wake. Villagers isn’t really a band; it’s the nom-de-plume of Conor J. O’Brien, previously of The Immediate, a psychedelic sort of post-New Wave band with a 1960s tinge. After the failure of that group, O’Brien settled down with his collection of superior poetry books, playing guitar for touring singers while quietly developing his own songwriting skills. Three years on, he presents us with his gorgeous debut album, Becoming a Jackal.O’Brien plays and records much of it himself, with occasional help with strings, woodwind and drums from his Dublin friends. The prevailing mood is acoustic; the songs meander without hurry through a set of melodies that keep their secrets close to their chest, but nevertheless exude a rare hypnotic power. A fascinating debut.
Otis Taylor, Clovis People Vol. 3 (Telarc)
The list of instruments used in Rain So Hard, the first track of this astonishing set of 21st-century blues, may give you an idea of just how singular an artist the 61-year-old Otis Taylor is. His guitar and vocals, bass and drums are joined by theremin, cornet, cello and pedal steel. Ranging from sparse acoustic gentleness to fierce and exquisitely controlled aggression, this is a gripping album.
Dr Will, Speak of the Devil (ZYX Music)
The most interesting reggae in recent years has come out of Berlin, so why should we be surprised that the best New Orleans album of recent years hails from Munich? Dr Will takes the formula – massive Dr John-esque vocals, and rumbling voodoo grooves – mixes in a hint of Waits, Doug Sahm, Ry Cooder and the Stones,
and manages to remain utterly his own man.
Band of Horses, Infinite Arms (Sony)
Band of Horses are the vehicle for the songwriting of South Carolina-raised Ben Bridwell. After a couple of dreamy lo-fi albums, they have opted for a shinier production job on this, their third album. It does their Beach Byrdsy/Crazy Horsey vocals and indeed, their melodies, no harm at all.
Konono No. 1, Assume Crash Position
These Kinshasa Congotronicists somehow manage to fashion a wondrously joyous sound from an array of recycled street junk, feedback and a choir of over-amplified thumb pianos. Band leader Papa Migiedi, now in his 1970s, welcomes guests Pepe Felly and assorted Kasai Allstars to his line-up for this record. As good as 2004’s breathtaking Congotronics set.