It's been five years since Hozier's self-titled album was released. Take Me to Church dominated the airwaves that year (and is still played on the regular if you're listening to the good stations and Spotify) and his newest album, Wasteland, Baby!, has fourteen songs that are just as good as the hit he's known for. It was released on March 1 and quickly climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. It was the first rock album to top the charts at number one in more than three months.
Image courtesy of Apple Music
Wasteland opens with a tribute to Nina Simone and other revolutionary artists in the song Nina Cried Power. Hozier is joined by Mavis Staples on the track and the two voices together are incredibly rich and emotional as they sing. That is the only duet he has on his sophomore release and it was actually released last year on an EP he put out. From then on, the music only gets better. Most of the songs are moody but soulful, with one exception being To Noise Making (Sing) literally being Hozier saying you should sing despite what you sound and feel like. To me, that was the lightest song on the album. Each is filled with meaning and emotion and is heavily influenced by blues, folk, and rock music. Each has lyrics that are so poetic I actually stopped and had to think about what I had just heard. Take for instance this line from No Plan: "Your secret is safe with me/ and if secrets were like seeds/ when I'm lying on the marble/marble of flowers you have made". I personally think that's a pretty nice way of saying he's not going to tell anyone what you have to say. Movement is the fourth song on the album and is my personal favorite so far, followed by Be and Would That I? . I would have to say the song that I personally liked the least is Shrike, but other reviews have praised this as “a serene masterpiece”.
Some critics have not taken too kindly to Hozier's second album. In fact, one well-respected music publication wrote an especially stupid review that I am still annoyed at, so I am not including a hyperlink! Basically, the writer believed Hozier's second album is just him stumbling to re-attempt the success of his first album. But I totally disagree. While some songs do seem reminiscent of his first few (the song Wasteland, Baby!'s opening notes do sound very similar to those of Cherry Wine), I think it's hard to say his songs are re-hashes at older ones. The world has really changed since Hozier's last album and a lot of the songs he's written reflects that. The influences are the same, but the ideas and lyrics have changed. Wasteland, Baby! has the type of songs that strike a chord within you and fuel a desire to live a really meaningful life. I don't remember feeling that way with every song on his first album, but I'm glad I do with this one.