Recording under the nom de plume Villagers, Conor J. O’Brien makes his solo debut with a richly textured folk-pop album filled with visionary lyrics and haunting minor-key melodies. An introspective troubadour with a romantic streak, he combines the longing spirit of Jens Lekman with Paul Simon’s urbanite angst. What gives Becoming a Jackal its spark is O’Brien’s gift for telling stories without dispelling their poetic mystery. Tracks like “That Day,” “The Meaning of the Ritual” and the title song paint unsettling pictures of desire and betrayal, framing them in evocative acoustic-slanted arrangements. O’Brien probes the nature of relationships with a subtle pen in the buoyant “The Pact (“I’ll Be Your Fever)” and the tropical “Set the Tigers Free.” “I Saw the Dead” pulses with prog-rock grandeur, while “Ship of Promises” sails high upon baroque-pop strings. O’Brien’s winsome tenor voice gives him the air of a pilgrim seeking truth in a confused and corrupted world and he emerges as a one-man band to be reckoned with by the end of this outstanding album.