Hozier: A Review (From a Non-Musician)

As fall has steadily moved in and made itself at home, I find myself spending my days not just with an extra hot cup of coffee and pumpkin shaped fairy lights, but with some of my favorite fall music. At the top of my list is Hozier’s self-titled album: Hozier, specifically the expanded version. While it was released six years ago on September 19, 2014, it quickly claimed the top spot on my go-to fall albums and has stayed the reigning champ since. With fifteen total tracks and a run time of about an hour, I find it the perfect album to put on when you have a longer drive, errands to run, or even just need to blow off some steam and sing really loud.

This album includes and starts with Hozier’s most known track, “Take Me to Church,” which hit the mainstream radio and was (unfortunately) many people’s one and only exposure to his work. His vocals take center stage on this track with a backing of bass, guitar, piano, and drums making up the full-bodied tones. Overall this track is a great introduction to the power Hozier carries in his vocals through his honey-rich tone and incredible vocal control. While this is his most popular track, it’s not my personal favorite, so I highly encourage anyone who somewhat liked “Take Me to Church,” to check out the next few songs.

I’d like to highlight “To Be Alone.” While it uses a lot of the same instruments as “Take Me to Church”, the drums really stand out which sets a powerful undertone that continues as a sort of heartbeat. This beautifully compliments the lyrics about an animalistic yearning for a lover which creates one of the most unique all-around experiences when listening. These themes continue throughout the whole album with nods and references to it peppered throughout. Another special note about this track is that  Hozier slips into his higher register for some of the vocal runs between chorus’. This shows off how wide his range is and how much training has gone into cultivating his voice. 

“To Be Alone” alongside “Take Me to Church”, falls into the first of two loose categories I can sort this album into. The first is a more serious type of song with a strong beat and low tones that make listeners feel connected to their own spirit. Two songs that I categorize here (only found in the expanded version of the album) are “Run,” and “In the Woods Somewhere” which both create the perfect creepy fall vibe between the tone of the music and very narrative nature-based lyrics. The other category I would define as a lighter feeling entranced love song about a love so pure it would have to come from something divine. Of this category, “Like Real People Do,” and “In a Week” would be my top recommendations. Both of these are also very narrative in their lyrics but paint scenes of tenderness that is a breath of fresh air when juxtaposed with some of his darker themes.

While these descriptions don’t do justice to the complexities of most of his work, the duality creates interesting mood shifts throughout the whole album and makes the hour run-time seem like only minutes. As a whole, one of my favorite aspects of Hozier’s work is the narratives he is able to paint with his lyrics which reference everything from nature and love to biblical references that add another layer of meaning. Overall, his deep voice with lyrics that are just to the left of what you’d expect creates the perfect fall atmosphere, especially as we in the thick of October. So the next time you find yourself in a music rut and need something new to listen to, remember, Hozier might be the perfect fit.