The Immediate were a one-of-a-kind band. Their split in 2007, after the release of one of the best Irish debuts in recent memory ('In Towers and Clouds'), came as a shock for those who expected them to grow in experience and stature. For those still mourning that band's loss, solace comes in the shape of Villagers, the new project of ex-Immediate guitarist, singer and songwriter Conor O'Brien.

A versatile performer - he's played in Cathy Davey's band over the past year or so - O'Brien is also a masterful writer of songs, with a canny knowledge of lyrical beauty as well as musical subtlety. These four tracks demonstrate that talent skilfully, whether it's the tumultous beat and sinister, hymnal quality of 'Down, Under the Sea' or the funereal slow-burner 'The Meaning of the Ritual'. 'Pieces' is hugely impressive, too, its swoonsome rock 'n' roll balladry giving way to a cacaphonous din like the cracking glass of a diner jukebox. Possibly the most hyped Irish act of 2009, it comes as some relief that Villagers have the acumen to back up the hysteria. On this brief evidence, an album should be quite special.