I’m slightly concerned that I’m going to get a reputation in this little community as someone unable to criticise, someone who gets overexcited, and someone who lets the sheer quality of an album abolish all sense of professionalism. This concern is only exacerbated by the fact that Hozier’s self-titled debut dropped this September, and it’s everything loyal fans hoped it would be and more. In addition, I was lucky enough to speak to the kind-hearted Irish musician on the telephone. Me. On an actual phone. No, I can’t believe it either.
Even if you’re not a dedicated follower of Hozier then there’s still a chance you may have heard hit single, Take Me To Church, a moody and dramatic performance filled with lust and danger and heavy religious themes. In an interview with The Guardian, Hozier said that this song is “about how organisations like the Catholic Church undermine what it is to be human and loving somebody else”. It’s a song that could stir emotion in even the most severe of individuals, and provides a good introduction to his music – it’s rhythmic and moving and lyrically beautiful. This is probably the phrase I would use to describe the album as a whole. Take Me To Church is followed by Angel Of Small Death & The Codeine Scene, a slightly more fast-paced song which still maintains an emotional hook and excellent, original guitar work.
Hozier has drawn from a wide range of influences and managed to create an album that is a successful amalgamation of rhythm, blues, jazz, folk, soul, and rock. Songs such as To Be Alone, which originated as a single guitar and a voice on the EP, have become bigger, louder and richer, boasting a band and an altogether deeper production. The sheer power and beauty of Hozier’s voice is not lost as a result. His songs tackle themes of love, loss, religion, and obsession in a mature and universal way and each song is different enough to keep you fully invested in his performance. Someone New is spritely and bouncy, yet It Will Come Back rumbles and echoes and howls and almost sounds like a film soundtrack from a country and Western that also happens to be a staggering love story. The album is emotional, raw, and put together with such skill and songwriting prowess that it’s hard to comprehend that Andrew Hozier Byrne is only 24 years old.
As mentioned previously, I was able to talk to the Irish master-musician on the phone earlier this week, which was a ludicrously surreal experience. After Hozier posted a phone number on his Twitter page, hundreds of fans from all over the world were ringing and ringing in an attempt to have a short conversation. It took over 50 attempts but I eventually got through, and spoke to the man who’s album I haven’t stopped listening to for four days straight. Like I said, it was definitely surreal. When I told him I was doing this review, he replied, “I don’t have anything to be worried about, I hope”, and expressed sincere gratitude when I explained how successful I thought the album was. We talked about his performance on Saturday Night Live and the fact he has been too busy on the road to stop and listen to the new Alt-J album. One of his favourite tracks on his own album is To Be Alone, which is also mine, so we are basically best friends.
Hozier is kind, humble, and talented. I would offer the opinion that his lyrics are as poetic and impressive as those of Bon Iver. They are beautiful and painful and stand up track after track, from the romantic longing and trembling bass of To Be Alone and It Will Come Back, to the softer, more delicate Like Real People Do and Cherry Wine. There is such a wide variety of songs on this album I would implore everyone to listen to until the end. I challenge you all not to find at least one track you enjoy. I would also recommend paying that little extra for (or searching that little bit harder for a torrent of) the deluxe edition of this album. You are gifted with four extra songs, one of which is In The Woods Somewhere, an interesting and haunting melody of steady moving percussion and low pitched guitar, with gospel-like vocals in the background. It’s almost intimidating in places, in the same way as Seven Devils from Florence And The Machine’s Ceremonials. It’s dark, dramatic, a little scary, yet also simplistic. It’s really bloody good.
The album ends with Cherry Wine, a live performance with only Hozier’s voice and an acoustic guitar. It’s delicate and soft and his voice hangs over the intricate guitar work like velvet and honey. It’s hugely different to album opener, Take Me to Church. Top tip: if you’re already half in love with a musician, don’t talk to them on the phone, lest they prove themselves to be just as down to earth and sweet as you expected they would be. Real life people will no longer be good enough for you. Other music will no longer be good enough for you. It’s okay. Put Cherry Wine on and listen to the Autumn rain.