Arithmetic is the oldest and most elementary form of mathematics – it is the building blocks for everything else.
You could say the same about love. As human beings, it is our most basic building block. From the love we receive when we first arrive it this world, to the bloodier, dirtier and often fractured love we experience as we get older.
And that is what Darling Arithmetic, the third album from Irish folk band Villagers, addresses. It is not a departure from the band’s previous two albums, it is pure Villagers through and through. It is an album about love, from its tender and heartfelt beginnings to its bitter gnarled end. If you have ever experienced love, it will hold some resonance for you.
It was written, recorded, produced and mixed by the band’s frontman and beating heart, Connor O’Brien. The music is sparse and intensely intimate. Like you’re in a small room with O’Brien and the band, it draws you in. O’Brien has such a unique, slightly , and honeyed voice. It’s not forced, just natural and soft – it almost reverberates through you and somehow oozes sincerity. You really feel that in this album, especially songs like ‘Everything I Am’ and the achingly beautiful ‘Dawning on Me’. The latter rises in you like a new day, a new love:
“There’s a light coming through the window/But all I can see/Is the light of your love/You’ve been dawning on me”
And O’Brien is not just singing at you, it’s like he leaves space for the listener, which is part of why it feels so intimate. The songs offer a universality which leaves open a wider interpretation for the listener – everyone can hear their lives in this music.
Wherever you are from, whatever sexual orientation, this will speak to you about your experiences of love. ‘Hot Scary Summer’ perfectly depicts the breakdown of a relationship. Just the title sounds claustrophobic and sweaty. It paints the picture of a disintegrating love that makes you “half a person, half a monster”, a love left in the hot sun to spoil. It’s also a song where O’Brien references homophobia for the first time, and it feels like he is becoming bolder with his sexuality, more able to discuss it and be angry about some of the treatment he has received.
All in, another great album from Villagers full of heartfelt eerie folk music that pulls you in so you can lie back into it. The only question to ask at the end is:
“How did it end so quick/My darling arithmetic?”