After two albums of inventive folk-pop, Conor O’Brien’s third – last year’s Darling Arithmetic – seemed to find him drifting tremulously towards the middle of the road. This record, a collection of songs picked from Villagers’ past and recorded in a day without additional studio polish, might have been a good opportunity to rough up his most recent songs and recapture some of the old zip. But though these 12 tracks have their merits – the warm brass on My Lighthouse, the dabs of double bass on Memoir – rawness and originality are not among them. The impression they leave is fleeting; neat arrangements and accomplished musicianship, but with wit and character seemingly in short supply.
Ally Carnwath writes on Africa and music for the Guardian and Observer