Review by Bailey Garno
As you all know, my friends and I here at Music Creates Us have been fortunate to cover some truly talented musicians and nothing excites us more than hearing about artists we’ve covered rising to stardom. But with the next album review, this artist is already well on his way to taking the music scene by storm. Irish songwriter of soul Andrew Hozier-Bynes, whose stage name is Hozier, made his ‘Saturday Night Live’ debut this past October 11th and in case you haven’t heard, it was kind of a big deal. Hozier performed “Angel Of Small Death and Codeine Scene” as well as the hugely popular EP track released back in 2013, “Take Me To Church.” We’re here to tell you, don’t stop listening there! The self-titled album, Hozier, is thoroughly satisfying from beginning to end, so much so you may end up listening to it 27 times a day (as I have).
The album starts with a bang. “Take Me To Church,” as has been mentioned, had already garnered Hozier considerable recognition. The bluesy tune has haunting harmonies and powerful piano elements that lend to the darkness of the song. Its music video was released in late September of 2013, and currently has over 13 million hits on YouTube. Rightfully so. The video is set over the backdrop of the anti-gay legislation in Russia last fall, and the story depicts the brutality a young, gay couple faced from a masked mob. It’s a chilling story, even shown in black and white, and Hozier’s vocal abilities sing a song of love without restraint.
Next on the album is an equally soulful song and likely my favorite from the impressive collection. “Angel Of Small Death and Codeine Scene” was also performed on ‘SNL’ and features a choir for vocal back-up. Lyrically rich yet wonderfully simple in the verses, the second track will undoubtedly induce listeners into a stomp-and-clap frenzy.
Continuing with the elements of gospel, “Jackie and Wilson” is the first of Hozier’s more upbeat songs featured on the album. The Irishman does happy just as well as he does dark, though. “From Eden” is a comparable track, with a cheery chorus and choir humming buzzing under Hozier’s own warm voice. There’s an interesting shift instrumentally about three-quarters of the way through that sounds very Spanish flamenco that also makes this song great.
Listening to Hozier, you may pick up on some similarities to The Black Keys. I’m a huge fan of the latter, so the distorted vocals that Hozier uses is thoroughly enjoyable for me. The garage rock that The Black Keys is so well-known for is pretty prevalent off of Hozier, especially in tracks like “To Be Alone” and “It Will Come Back.” These tracks, led by electric guitar and Hozier’s striking vocal resemblance to the Keys’ Dan Auerbach, mellow down the listener’s experience, but are equally noteworthy.
I’m a sucker for the sweet, love ballads and anxiously awaited hearing Hozier’s own take on this. I think that “In a Week” is where we are first offered this softer side, which is smack dab in the middle of the album. Featuring the lovely Karen Cowley, “In a Week” reminded me of an Allison Krause and Robert Plant mash-up—a.k.a. an angelic creation. “Like Real People Do” and “Cherry Wine” are equally moving. The simple acoustics and Hozier’s near whisperings are quite different from the dense, rock sound characteristic of the first half of the album. “Cherry Wine” in particular is so wonderfully uncomplicated; it’s just one of those songs that could move you to tears.
Coming in at a plentiful 13-track total, Hozier shows off all that the singer/songwriter has to offer. There’s so much variety in tempo and vocal range, and with very little to be disappointed over. Searching for faults, “Sedated” does run the risk of being a bit whiney, although the chorus is at least strong, again featuring the gospel choir. “Foreigner’s God” is also weaker comparatively; however, Hozier’s songwriting abilities cannot be understated, even in these less satisfactory tracks.
You’ll be hard-pressed to miss this musician’s fast rise to fame. Megastars like Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran have gushed over Hozier’s far-reaching talents. It is also worth noting that the SNL producers’ recent trend in booking lesser-known artists whose popularity skyrockets after their performances (remember Bastille and Of Monsters and Men?) suggests stardom on the horizon for the Irishman. Hozier is available for purchase on iTunes and streaming on Spotify, so don’t just take my word for his talent; listen now and let us know what you think!
Take Me To Church
Angel of Small Death and Codeine Scene