Hozier – Wasteland, Baby!

Hozier - Wasteland, Baby!It’s unfortunate that Hozier will quite likely forever be stuck with the one-hit-wonder label because his second album proves the first wasn’t merely a fluke.

On Wasteland, Baby!, Hozier continues packaging life into unlikely analogies that work. The album is an ode to love, to life and to music. Opening track Nina Cried Power, with guest vocals from the incredible Mavis Staples, whose voice transforms the song into a multi-dimensional experience, making it sound even more epic than his breakthrough Take Me To Church. It’s an anthemic song that sings the praises of protest music from past generations of songwriters, namedropping everyone from Nina Simone and Billie Holiday to Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell. Hozier again references the great musicians of jazz throughout Almost (Sweet Music), with lyrics that combine the power music has on recalling old memories, even when he’s moved on.

Hozier is a musician’s musician and Wasteland, Baby! is an album to be appreciated for its structure and songwriting as he blends blues, rock ‘n’ roll and gospel. He finds solace in catastrophe, which is summed up no better than on the title track, a song that compares new love to the end of the world, viewed as a new beginning. “All the fear and the fire of the end of the world/Happens each time a boy falls in love with a girl/Happens great, happens sweet/Happily, I’m unfazed here too.”

The end of the world pops up elsewhere on the album, including the sultry, grungy No Plan, a song inspired by a lecture by astrophysicist Katherine J. Mack, who Hozier named-drops in the song. The lyrics take the theory that the universe will one day collapse, but rather than focus on the doom and gloom of limited time, Hozier sings about being appreciative for the time we do have, even if “there will be darkness again.”

Layered with imagination and imagery, Wasteland, Baby! makes for a fascinating listen – though it does begin to feel long by the second half. Even as his commanding voice dominates throughout, there isn’t a lot of variance between the tone of the songs and it begins to set in as the record continues. But Hozier can’t be faulted for a lack of ambition or emotion, for which there is plenty of on this record. He puts his all into these songs and they bleed with feeling.

Four stars

Check out: Nina Cried Power, Shrike, Wasteland, Baby!

1. Nina Cried Power [featuring Mavis Staples]
2. Almost (Sweet Music)
3. Movement
4. No Plan
5. Nobody
6. To Noise Making (Sing)
7. As It Was
8. Shrike
9. Talk
10. Be
11. Dinner & Diatribes
12. Would That I
13. Sunlight
14. Wasteland, Baby!

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