Poetic lyricism: Hozier's return to the spotlight
Four years after his chart-topping, self-titled release, Andrew Hozier-Byrne – often known by the stage name Hozier – returned to the spotlight on Thursday, Sept. 6, with a four-track EP titled, “Nina Cried Power.” The Ireland native didn’t hold back on the new project, tapping into his blues roots with features from Mavis Staples and Booker T. Jones. Released through Columbia Records, the EP stands at a brief, but polished, 17 minutes.
With a title that pays homage to Nina Simone, the whole EP can be considered a tribute to both Civil Rights era musicians and powerful artists that paved the way for future generations. In the title track, Hozier name-drops a total of 15 artists – including Joni Mitchell, John Lennon and B.B. King – giving a nod to their experiences by singing, “Nina cried power / Lennon cried power / James Brown cried power,” with an unmatched intensity. In typical Hozier fashion, the track is intense and raw, showcasing his vocals above all else. Staples’ collaboration brings significant blues elements to the song – a deliberate recruitment by Hozier himself. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he described Staples as “the most amazing person” with an energy “that’s still absolutely there.”
The transition into the keys-heavy second track, titled “NFWMB,” is a smooth one, building into a tumultuous battle cry – an ominous feeling that cannot be shaken. The chorus and title are shaped around one line: Hozier declaring “nothing fucks with my baby,” more sure of himself than ever. The track features Booker T. Jones on organ, adding a stylistic element that seems to fit like clockwork with the intimidatingly dark lyrics. “NFWMB” brings Hozier back to his traditional lyrical style, one that abounds with love and the intimacy of relationships.
This theme follows the listener to the third track, titled “Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue),” which grapples with the perceived religious immorality of a promiscuous sexual relationship. Twangy guitar echoes the vocals as Hozier sings, “Me and my babe relaxin’, catching manic rhapsody / All reason flown, as God looks down in abject apathy.” Hozier and his partner share private moments, ones that provide them with an escape from the calamity of the outside world, away from those who would have something ill to say of them.
The final and longest running track on the EP is titled “Shrike,” implementing a Celtic-influenced guitar style and breathy yet strong vocals. The song is very reminiscent of early Bon Iver, emphasizing Hozier’s range and musical capability. He compares himself to a shrike, a bird known for impaling prey on thorns. “I’m flying like a bird to you now / Back to the hedgerows where the bodies are mounted,” he sings, a message to a lover that he hasn’t let go. He realizes what he left behind, and wants a second chance. “Shrike” is the most reserved of the four tracks, and even seems like it could have come from his debut album.
The last four years have been quiet from Hozier, giving him time to perfect his songs until their release. Collaborations and advanced mixing make the four tracks shine, feeling mature and deliberate. The EP is a promising preview, with something that old and new fans alike can appreciate. The balance of intensity and reservation makes way for Hozier’s experimentation, carving a place for himself to grow in his upcoming album. Hozier begins his North American tour at the end of this month, armed with new songs that are ready for the world to hear.