Hozier’s album is far from a music wasteland, baby

Gillian Hogan

For the music industry in its current fickle state, five years is a long time for an artist to stay silent, for fear of being forgotten. That is exactly what Andrew Hozier-Byrne from Bray, Co.Wicklow, on the tiny island of Ireland did. It’s been nearly six years since the release of Hozier’s first EP Take Me To Church which took the world by storm with its political message. It was an entire year later before listeners heard his self-titled debut album in 2014. Despite being an overnight success, Hozier has avoided the factory aspect of music creation that consumes many others in his situation. He is not afraid of making people wait. The result is his highly anticipated sophomore album, Wasteland, Baby!

The album, which was released March 1st 2019, follows the same vibe as the singer-songwriter’s debut. Filled with political urgency and morphed with romantic exploration, Hozier takes everything that worked so well the first time and expands on it. It expertly blends the genres of blues, soul, gospel, pop, folk, rock and RnB to create one unified sound; Hozier. It is evident from listening, that the gap between albums was not spent in vain. Extensive research has gone into each track, from activist-artists to greek mythology. The album artwork, created by his visual artist mother, Raine Hozier-Byrne, depicts Hozier submerged in water, which is exactly what this album is: deep.

The album opens with a song we already know, the radio familiar Nina Cried Power. It’s easy to see why it was chosen as both the first song on the tracklist and the first song released, as it succeeds in setting the album’s tone of political commentary. It’s successor Movement, is true to its name, the verses mimic the gentle lapsing of the sea while its chorus builds to crashing waves. The best kinds of songs are those that are complemented by their rhythm and melody, but could stand alone as beautiful poems. Shrike delivers image inspired lyrics, likening himself to the shrike songbird that impales its freshly killed prey on tree thorns, the thorns being his lover.

Whilst some tracks are better than others, most morph together in a way that each song might be a pleasant listen but its name may escape the listener. No Plan is nearly six minutes long but lacks the outstanding depth aspect, that songs of such length usually achieve. Instead, a standard two verse song is offered with the last two and a half minutes consisting only of a repetition of chorus and pre-chorus. Sunlight plays true to name by imposing the feeling of looking at the sun as it shines, but quickly turning to look away before it becomes too much. Although beautiful, the track goes a bit overboard in terms of repetition and production. It may prove difficult to come away with more lyrics than ‘sunlight’ upon first listen.

Although Wasteland, Baby! does not offer anything hugely striking or innovative in comparison to Hozier’s first record, he sticks to what he knows and does it effectively. It gifts listeners with a collection of work that is deeply thought out and only gets better with repeated hearings. Hozier uses his magnificent talent and craftsmanship in an attempt to make sense of the world around him yet, concludes that it is nothing but chaos, something that makes his explorations all the more appealing.
Rating: ★★★★

Gillian Hogan
Image Credit: NME.com