“Hozier” Album Review
By REBECCA SIMON and EVAN SILVERA
The only thing that can rival Hozier’s exquisite voice is the beauty that is enveloped within his words. Irish singer and lyricist Andrew Hozier-Byrne is a paragon of musicality. His hit debut single “Take Me To Church” and his subsequent eponymous album “Hozier” are melanges of blues, soul, indie rock, and R&B. “Hozier” is an anthem for the lost, the loved, and the chronically unsure.
“Take Me To Church” welcomes the listener to “Hozier” with its incurably secular undertones and haunting blues. With its striking opening, “My lover’s got humor/She’s the giggle at a funeral/Knows everybody’s disapproval/I should’ve worshipped her sooner,” the listener is immediately overwhelmed by Hozier’s sense of misplaced religious devotion. This theme seeps into nearly every track as he masks his love and lust with unfounded piety.
“Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” can be seen as a sequel to Margaret Atwood’s unforgettable “Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing” – the narrator sings through the mouths of those watching this “Angel of Small Death” as she turns men into animals and mindless worshippers. The gritty sound is steeped in whiskey and cigarette butts, powered by a beat that can only come from a human heart. Similarly, “Foreigner’s God” parallels “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” by describing the same brazen beauty men can only dream to tame: “Her eyes look sharp and steady/Into the empty parts of me/But still my heart is heavy/With the hate of some other man’s beliefs/Screaming the name of a foreigner’s god/The purest expression of grief.” Evocative but reserved, this number has a strange influence over the listener. It at once empowers with its rhythm but shackles with its lyrics. “From Eden” is an ode to the very same woman. She is both tragic and magic, the ultimate femme fatale, the type of woman that prompts men to “[slither] here from Eden just to sit outside [her] door.”
Though the entire album is fused with raw emotion, the ballad “In a Week” featuring Karen Cowley is the quintessence of epic love. The number follows a man as he melodically and eerily describes his rotting body and its decay over the span of a week. As time elapses, as “insects feast on [him],” the closer he comes to arriving at the home where his lover resides. One can only presume he means the life after death. Halfway through, Karen Cowley enters like freshly fallen snow. She is alive, yet dead and gone. She yearns and is yearned for. “In a Week” follows Hozier’s path, paved by bone-chilling lyrics but also welcoming a different, soft-spoken side of the singer. Following in the footsteps of “In a Week,” the track “Like Real People Do” expands upon nature and its interaction with natural love: “The bugs and the dirt/Why were you digging/What did you bury before those hands pulled me/From the earth.” With understated simplicity and grace, “Like Real People Do” is a lighter note in an otherwise heavy-hitting album.
One of the few airy numbers, “Jackie and Wilson” employs the unattainable woman similarly described in both “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” and “Foreigner’s God.” However, in “Jackie and Wilson,” Hozier portrays her as more vagarious than vindictive. Almost completely diverging from the tempo of the previous songs, “Jackie and Wilson” is upbeat and fast-paced. It encompasses all that its name suggests as was inspired by Jackie Wilson, the father of rhythm, blues, and soul. The pulsing beat persists into “Someone New” as the line, “And so I fall in love just a little, oh a little bit every day with someone new” surge through the song.
Written and recorded in the in the solitude of his own attic in Wicklow, Ireland, “Hozier” is a potpourri of true Irish artistry and universal passion. With a name almost as distinct as his grizzly yet refined vocals, Hozier’s debut album is anything but common. His seemingly effortless ability to integrate meaning into mainstream music commands the respect of all music enthusiasts. Although his talent is still largely unknown to the general public, his rise to fame seems somewhat meteoric. Barely a year after his EP “Take Me to Church” was released, Hozier appeared on “Saturday Night Live” and performed at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, rubbing elbows with music icons Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran.
As George Orwell once said, “The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.” “Hozier” is a masterfully crafted album that soars as high as its lyrical and vocal peaks and as low as the valleys that line the artist’s soul. Though this album deserves no rating lower than a five, it would be unjust to give an artist’s debut album a perfect score – that is why we gave it 4.5 hawks. We can only hope to be as enchanted and emotionally moved by the future works of Mr. Hozier-Byrne as we are with “Hozier.”