Courtesy of Rubyworks

March 2, 2019

TEST SPIN | Hozier — ‘Wasteland, Baby!’

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I’ve always thought that Hozier is an underrated artist. He doesn’t make music that you listen to while jumping around at a frat party or the music that you sing-scream at the top of your lungs as you’re driving around with your friend. However, his music is the kind that makes you think — it encourages you to look up the lyrics and actually try and understand them. It has soul and depth.

In his first album since his self-titled debut Hozier, which was released in 2014, Hozier has returned from a prolonged hiatus with a powerful and moving album. Prior to the full release of Wasteland, Baby!, Hozier released the songs “Almost (Sweet Music),” “Movement” and “Dinner and Diatribes.” “Nina Cried Power (feat. Mavis Staples)” and “Shrike,” both from his 2018 EP Nina Cried Power, are also included on the new album.

While I do like the second half of Wasteland, Baby! more than the first, the songs “Movement” and “No Plan” from the first half are definitely worth the listen. “Movement” starts off soft and angelic. About a minute in, Hozier raises the volume and shows off the strong command he has over his voice. “No Plan” follows, which has much more emphasis on guitar usage and almost switches the genre. But it works great. Hozier grew up with his dad playing blues music in the house, and by listening to this album, you can see how skillfully Hozier combines the soulful characteristics of blues with a rock-esque vibe.

In the second half of the album, I particularly enjoyed “Shrike.” He sings “I couldn’t utter my love when it counted / Ah, but I’m singing like a bird ‘bout it now / And I couldn’t whisper when you needed it shouted.”  Hozier retrospectively recounts how he never expressed his love at the time, even though his partner needed the reassurance. In this piece, Hozier likens himself to the shrike songbird that impales its freshly killed prey on tree thorns (in this case the thorn is his lover). How romantic. He goes on to tell his lover to remember him when he is later reborn as a shrike and that, just like a shrike needs a thorn to survive by using it to impale its prey, Hozier needs his lover to survive as well.

The final song of Wasteland, Baby!, fittingly, is “Wasteland, Baby!.” The first 24 seconds of instrumental sound like a piece from a movie soundtrack where a boy and girl drive away from each other but know that they are still in love. And that’s basically what this song is, but with a bit more nostalgia. It seems like Hozier recognizes the struggles of the relationship with lyrics like, “that love soon might end / Be known in its aching,” yet he still professes his love with the final line of his chorus as “I’m in love I’m in love with you.” This inconsistency in his romantic feelings seems to be a trend throughout the album that is left unresolved in his final song.

Hopefully, this unfinished love story will continue via more releases. I have great respect for Hozier — he flies under the radar and drops heart-felt music. Impressively, Hozier comes from a family of talent and creativity. Hozier’s mother has created the cover art of both of his albums. The abstract and intricacy of the covers are fitting for his work and embody who he is as an artist. His music is full of metaphors and allusions, and it certainly is worth checking out.

 

Rachel Mattessich is a junior in the College of Human Ecology. She can be reached at rjm463@cornell.edu.