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Album Review: Hozier Returns with "Wasteland, Baby!"

Written by Hannah Cotter / Photography by: Shirlaine Forrest / March 11, 2019

Hozier has always been one to tackle big subjects in his songs and address things that might make other people feel uncomfortable. That's why I love him so much.
In his 2014 breakout success, "Take Me To Church," he showed his support for gay marriage and pushed the envelope with status quo-defying lyrics. His 2018 EP Nina Cried Power was inspired by the legacies of Civil Rights activists and artists like Mavis Staples, Bob Dylan, Woodie Guthrie and Joni Mitchell.
Hozier's latest release, Wasteland, Baby! weaves political activism and self-exploration into an experimental new twist.
The album is Hozier's first full length record in nearly five years, and it was definitely worth the wait. The 14-track album features singles "Movement," "Almost (Sweet Music)" and "Dinners and Diatribes," which were released earlier this year.
Anthemic, powerful, and politically-charged, Wasteland pays homage to singer-songwriter pioneers and is heavily influenced by their work. It's also Hozier at his most emotional and introspective.
The album opens up with the chilling and rousing line, "It's not the waking, it's the rising" from "Nina Cried Power," and delves into the influences of other protest songs. "James cried power," Hozier sings, "Lennon cried power/ Patti cried power/ Billie, power/ Dylan, power/ Woody, power."
Hozier "Nina Cried Power" Official Music Video
After a cinematic buildup, Hozier transitions into the softer "Almost (Sweet Music)," which name checks jazz legends Duke Ellington and Chet Baker. In this song, he asks his "foolish heart" not to mess up a budding relationship with a jazz lover, and incorporates famous song titles into the lyrics. "The very thought of you and I am blue?" directly references Billie Holiday songs of the same name and "A love supreme seems far removed" nods at John Coltrane's 1965 comeback album, A Love Supreme.
While many songs revisit his debut album's bluesy folk vibes, Hozier puts his best foot forward on Wasteland, coupling some experimental sounds with his lyrical poeticism. You can hear the Isley Brothers' signature springy guitar in "No Plan," and Hozier features Booker T. Jones' electric funky organ in "Be" and "Sunshine."
He slows things down in "Movement," in which he uses the concept of dancing to detail his love for his partner. "You're less Polunin leaping," he coos,"or Fred Astaire in sequins, honey."
Hozier "Movement" Official Music Video
“Dinner and Diatribes” is intense, frantic and punchy. It's “the kind of love [we’ve] been dreaming of.”
Upon the single’s release, Hozier took to Facebook to say the song “tries to credit that feeling of relief when leaving any tedious social engagement.”
Hozier on Facebook
Wasteland's title track bookends the album, leaving listeners with a breathy, love letter to his partner: “Wasteland, baby/ I’m in love, I’m in love with you.”
The album is a testament to musical pioneers Hozier idolizes as well as a call to action. He masterfully spans 50 years of art and activism into 14 solid tracks. Worth the wait.
Hozier will play one show in Auckland at Spark Arena on April 28 - get tickets below!
Hozier Tickets
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