Hozier sings hope into darkness

After nearly five years since his first album Irish singer-songwriter, Hozier, released the much-anticipated Wasteland, Baby! earlier this month.  The sophomore album is an easy continuation of his self-titled EP and holds onto his signature sound. While it is 100% an enjoyable album, Wasteland, Baby! is a step down from Hozier’s debut LP. Though it was a beautiful album, I did have some qualms about it.

In an interview with NPR shortly before the album was released, Hozier, aka Andrew Hozier-Byrne, shared that the album was influenced by the current European and American political climates. Amidst songs of desolation and apocalypse Hozier said he hoped the appropriately named album would portray “the kindness, the warmth and the capability of people, even in the imagined last moments, to still issue a squeeze of the hand.”

This theme fell flat in the opening “Nina Cried Power” featuring former Civil rights activist and soul singer Mavis Staples. The song is an anthem celebrating protest songs and has a passionate sound but has an irksome self-indulgence.

The mad man cannot stop name dropping. In the sultry serenade “Movement,” Hozier gives a shout out to Fred Astaire and Sergei Polunin, the bad boy ballerino Hozier features in music videos. “No Plan,” is the rockin’ love song about the heat death of the universe that everyone wants sung to them if only Hozier stopped himself from referencing Twitter-savvy astrophysicist Dr. Katie Mack. Filling in space with names is closer to laziness than to a quirk, especially in the fourth song in a row.

I wish these next songs did name drop because then I would further justified in my displeasure. Many balk at the length of the album, clocking in at about an hour, and these disappointments not only stick out musically but they have no relation to the theme.

“Nobody” is a pop-y, over-produced celebration of excessive wealth that I can see as a summer hit. The predictable inspiration-fest “To Noise Making (Sing)” could’ve been written by Pharrell Williams and I wouldn’t be surprised.

One more disappointment: “Dinner and Diatribes.” Hozier whines about being horny at a party, which is fine, but the song is already a dull combo of two more interesting tracks.

I dig the whole striding through Valhalla vibe in “Dinner and Diatribes” with pounding drums that you just have to start chanting to, but this is done way better in the Icarus tribute “Sunlight.” The blues-y “Talk” already showcases carnal sexuality as a pick-up artist drops his poetic parallels to Orpheus and Eurydice in the chorus to admit he just wants sex.

The rest of Wasteland, Baby! flows well and could fit right into Hozier’s first album. The pleading “Shrike” and energized “Would That I” carry on the tradition of twisted imagery from nature. The melancholy “As It Was” that continues the album’s theme of desolation is a sister track to “It Will Come Back” from the self-titled LP.

If you were a fan of the subversion of religious iconography in “Take Me to Church,” hold onto your hats. “Be” presents love as an act of defiance against a selfish God and isolationism as Hozier twists the roles of original sin and heaven’s gates. With a snazzy guitar riff and a puzzling line about Adam’s first orgasm, this song is sultry and fulfilling.

Despite the exclamation point, the title track closes out the album on an apocalyptic yet mellow note filled with guitar picking. I could’ve done without the watery effect on Hozier’s voice in this sweet love song and most every track on the album could benefit from scaling back to the gritty sound of the first album.

I’m harsh on this album out of love and respect for his earlier work, but Wasteland, Baby! is a great album. The beloved bard has stayed true to his folk and blues rock roots while maintaining his poetic lyricism and stunningly gorgeous vocals and I’m excited to hear what comes next — preferably with a shorter hiatus —  and anyone is free to get me a ticket for his show at the Taft Theatre on June 7.

By: Heather Gast | Campus News Editor