An Ethereal Experience through Hozier’s “Wasteland, Baby!”

Photo Courtesy of Hozier.

Photo Courtesy of Hozier.

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If there was anyone who could pull off both the look and the sound of an ancient, god-like being from the forest, it would be Andrew Hozier-Byrne. Hozier, the stage name that he uses for his work, finally returned to the music scene with an album that features his well-loved earthy sound, as well as a few, new surprises for his fan base.

His release of “Wasteland, Baby!” follows a long break of five years, during which fans waited in anticipation for the Ireland-native singer to follow up his first album, featuring the immensely popular hit, “Take Me to Church.” At long last, their patience paid off, as Hozier’s sophomore album delivers just what fans were expecting and more. Tracks such as “Be” and “Sunlight” highlight Hozier’s appreciation for his blues and folk upbringing, respectively, while other tunes like “Nina Cried Power” and “Would That I” offer more of that characteristic belting vocals and chorus backing that have become synonymous with Hozier’s name.

Hozier’s use of a chorus in the background in his music is not unique for these two tracks and can be found hidden throughout the album. However, in “To Noise Making (Sing),” the multiple voices contributing to Hozier’s bring a distinctive feeling to the song, making it feel worldly and bigger than just the listener themselves. It’s one of the more light-hearted tracks on the album that celebrates passion for singing, no matter what one’s talent level is. These powerful chorus vocals contribute to the image of a primordial and immortal forest god that many fans attribute to the singer, an idea that Hozier himself, interestingly, has neither confirmed nor denied. His deep, earthy sound accompanied by his blues-inspired lyrics with often religious-like overtones further confirm this image that Hozier has constructed for himself, much to the delight of his fans.

One track that takes a notable step away from Hozier’s trademark sound is “Nobody,” a song beginning with a drumbeat and airy, euphoric vocalizing before opening up with a romantic declaration for an unknown person that Hozier continually addresses throughout several songs. “Nobody” is lighter, it’s sweeter than Hozier’s usual darker melodies and it is a refreshing addition to his now evolving sound.

This message of intimate love for another culminates in the title track “Wasteland, Baby!” This is one of the more mellow songs on the album, preaching a love despite an apocalyptic setting that Hozier crafts around himself and the other person. Hozier’s penchant for poetic lyrics shines through in this song with words like, “That love soon might end / And be known in its aching / Shown in the shaking / Lately of my wasteland, baby.” Despite the melancholy tune, the lyrics are delicate and soothing, and the song ends with “I’m in love with you” and Hozier whispering “That’s it.” Fans have speculated exactly who Hozier is singing to, but with the close, affectionate feeling of Hozier’s developing sound, the object of his serenading may as well be the audience itself.

A recent AMA session on Reddit had Hozier answering a fan’s question of the best time to listen to his second album. He simply answered “Whenever the dread creeps in, baby!” This answer, while humorous, truly does capture what Hozier is all about. Deep, powerful songs with robust beats, funky bass lines and backing vocals all build up to a hypnotic, folksy, collection of songs that, while full of his bright, belting voice, often convey stories of longing, frustration, or sorrow. However, what is unique about this album is that these feelings are not self-pitying, in fact they are more often a celebratory embrace of what it means to be human and to experience these feelings so strongly. And through “Wasteland, Baby!,” Hozier’s listeners are able to know these spirits just as strongly as he does.

From the light, lilting tunes and percussive beats to somber, rippling melodies, Hozier never fails to highlight his folksy background and create songs where words and sound blend together into a dynamic experience for the listener, whether they chose to listen to the story laid out by the lyrics or just sit back and enjoy the beat. It’s heavenly. It’s spellbinding. It’s Wasteland, Baby!