Hozier’s “Wasteland, Baby!” shows off folksy side
Photo courtesy of Hozier.
It has been over four years since Hozier released his debut album “Hozier,” which featured the popular song “Take Me To Church.” Hozier returned with his album “Wasteland, Baby!” on Friday, March 1. With this new release, he brings his distinctive voice that fans have been waiting to hear for years. Three of the album’s 14 songs were on Hozier’s EP “Nina Cried Power,” which was released in September of 2018. What’s so refreshing about Hozier’s songwriting is that there is a deeper meaning underneath the surface of each song – it’s not like some pop songs that practically scream their message at you. Though the entire album does not disappoint and shows off a new deeper, more folksy side of Hozier than fans may be used to, there are a few tracks on the album that truly shine.
The album begins with the namesake for the EP, “Nina Cried Power.” Here, Hozier pays homage to musical legends with the titular Nina being Nina Simone and the power coming from the lyrics of her song “Sinnerman.” In addition to Simone, Hozier lists 12 other musicians and activists, some of which are John Lennon (“People Have the Power”), Patti Smith (“Power to the People”), Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan and Mavis Staples, who is featured in this song. All of the artists mentioned wrote and sang about the problems facing their societies and tackled issues from civil rights to war.
“Almost (Sweet Music)” shows off Hozier’s pure lyrical genius. The song comes across as simply a love song; however, it’s almost a love song to classical jazz artists. Classical jazz artists like Duke Ellington and Chet Porter are mentioned by name, and titles and lyrics of other famous jazz songs make up the majority of the lyrics of this song. Lyrics like, “Let smoke rings from this paper doll,” actually reference jazz songs – in this case, “Smoke Rings” and “Paper Doll” by The Mills Brothers. Beneath all of these jazz references and the upbeat rhythm, however, there is an almost melancholy, cynical view of life. “I’m almost me again / She’s almost you,” Hozier sings. This could be the reason why it’s “Almost (Sweet Music),” because underneath there is something not-so-sweet about it.
“No Plan,” the fourth track on the album, discusses the end of the universe, as astrophysicist Katie Mack has lectured on, coming from stars burning out and the fact that “there will be darkness again,” but humans should enjoy the time they have left. While this may be one of the more pessimistic songs on the album, “Sunlight” comes in later on the album to bring a positivity to the album that had been lacking. On this track, Hozier sings, “I’m first and fierce if I’m in sight of sunlight.”
Also featured on the “Nina Cried Power” EP, “Shrike” is a beautiful song with the feel of an Irish folk song. A shrike is a bird that impales its prey on thorns, thus the lyrics, “Remember me, love, when I’m reborn / As a shrike to your sharp and glorious thorn.” Throughout this song, Hozier compares himself and his love to the shrike and its thorn, two things that are co-dependent on each other to survive. The song begins, “I couldn’t utter my love when it counted / Ah, but I’m singing like a bird ‘bout it now.” He can’t stay away from the girl he’s in love with, and instead keeps “flying like a bird to [her] now.”
Hozier had a lot of time to live life, write music and work on his sound in the nearly five years since he released his debut album, and this clearly shows in “Wasteland, Baby!” This album is Hozier at his best – soulful sound, beautiful guitar licks and powerful lyrics reminiscent of the musicians he looked up to who “cried power.”