It's an all United Kingdom post here tonight with three acts from across the pond entertaining ex-pats and anglophiles alike. All funny accents, and all good times.
Villagers is the one-man creative force from Conor O'Brien. It was a breakout year for the Irishman as he scored a Mercury Prize nomination for his debut album, Becoming a Jackal. His distinct accent, shy demeanor and beaten-up guitar made from a dynamic life show, not some passive, low-key event.
- The Meaning Of The Ritual
- Becoming a Jackal
- I Saw The Dead
- Set The Tigers Free
- Cecilia & Her Selfhood
- 27 Strangers
- To Be Counted Among Men
- The Pact (I'll Be Your Fever)
- That Day
- Ship Of Promises
- ENCORE: Memoirs
- On A Sunlit Stage
The great thing about Conor and his crew, playing for as afull band on this tour, is the variety of styles and feelings. On the low end of the spectrum you have Conor and his guitar singing about a girl named Cecilia, who got killed and dismembered. The story ends up with the narrator seeking revenge on the killer. Then on high end you have Ship of Promises, a driving, aggressive track where he sings with strength and presence.
He's not a traditional folk man -- just a fine singer-songwriter. When I first heard his music, I was thinking he was like a Cat Stevens-Jim Croce type, where they mix folk with more traditional pop elements. For Villagers, you have plenty of piano and electronics to accompany his guitar playing. Also, he's not passive or sheepish in his tunes or on stage. He sings with conviction and honesty. During 27 Strangers, which he did by himself, he stopped the song to ask the crowd if we use the term "queue" as in waiting in line. We don't. So he figure he might have to rearrange the lyrics, but loose the cool rhyming scheme. In any event, the guy can flat out perform. I even liked his thick Irish accent coming through at certain points.
Major bonus points for Erland and the Carnival opening up this show, as they are in town for a string of shows with Villagers, on their own at The Rock Shop or opening up for Paul Weller when he plays this weekend. They had a fantastic set with an essentric vareity of rock songs. Their music does indeed evoke a circus or carnival with variations of waltzes and other classical style set against some intricate guitar parts. As I've mentioned before, guitar journeyman Simon Tong of The Verve, Blur, Gorillaz and anything Damon Albarn is in the band. With all the young guys around, he looks like a chaparone.
In any event, there's a lot of fun things in their songs. Like Villagers, they are not an all-out folk, pop or rock band. They have a kitchen sink mentality where they try everything in the song, just as long as it has some sort of theatrically to it. Thus, as a live band, they keep you on your toes with the high-tempo circus act. As a lead singer, Erland Cooper reminds me of Tom from Editors, in that he controts his body to get the dissired effect and emotion in the song.
No full length album, yet from the group, just a couple of EPs for your downloading pleasure.
Another nice surprise was to see Findlay Brown back in New York. For his set, he went casual and solo. Last time I saw him, he was clean-shaven, wearing a fancy 50s suit and playing thrownback pop songs in the style of George Harrison or Richard Hawley. He dialed his sound down to be more of a Roy Orbison-styled vibe -- very sparse and understated.