Singer-songwriter Hozier’s new EP, Eat Your Young, is a smile through gritted teeth — a mix of familiar and fresh, it is a near-equilibrium of lyrical genius and troubled but soulful sound. Hozier again provides a provocative take on an ever-uncertain world and leaves us waiting (im)patiently for the full album Unreal Earth later this year.
The decade-long popularity of Andrew John Hozier-Byrne has in part been due to his weaving of worshipful language of longing with dusky, arboreal metaphor for the divine and the decayed. While Eat Your Young is more complicated than a triad of love songs, it still takes the timeless form of ballads.
To my ears, the title track “Eat Your Young” is a cheerful condemnation of indifference. Its sound somehow resonates at once with the strings of a spy thriller and an Ennio Morricone score — adventurous, but with Hozier’s usual lyrical sting, as he riddles domestic double meanings with consumer culture and political apathy. The song rises with the blithe upward climb of the capitalist (as successful folks pull up the ladder behind them), “skinning the children for a war drum.” With a bright and biting sarcasm like the whine of a gadfly, Hozier seems to condemn generational amnesia — the powerful aging so glutted with greed for their continued power that they cannot, or will not, acknowledge their responsibility for the future their children will inherit.
At first, I liked “Through Me a Flood” the least of the three, but I was soon won over by the sway of a song at once gorgeous and sad. Steeped in Hozier’s more audible Irish accent and his debt to R&B, the song brings to life some force of fate, falling by the chorus into the soulful rhythm of Hozier’s oldest music. But far from a rehash, this flood washes away the past in a gasp for some meaningful breath. I was especially struck by Hozier’s open contemplation of grief and the stunned silence of a griever beginning to understand “the full extent of what forever is,” as the horizon of their life is overwhelmed by the tidal weight of loss. Here yet again Hozier shows off his remarkable capacity to tell midnight stories with a sunrise sound.
Finally, “All Things End” is my favorite of the EP, a slow, personal gospel of facing change with joy. Its optimistic nihilism seems like it should accompany the rolling credits at the end of a film; it might sound a bit trite, but it resonates with me as a college senior. I have listened to it a couple times when I’ve started to feel that dread of being unprepared for the end of the familiar. Graduating is saying goodbye, not only to dear friends and places, but to a convenient sense of self derived from the routines of student life. Like the best of Hozier’s music, with the radiance of its choir, “All Things End” can shine with useful clarity on both the interior and external world — and it can be a reminder for the introspective student that endings of any sort can be good beginnings.
Charlee Mandy is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].