It’s been five years since Hozier served us “Cherry Wine” on his self-titled album, and the Irish singer has returned to indie rock and the blues with his sophomore album “Wasteland, Baby!”
With breakthrough singles like “Take Me to Church” and “Work Song” catapulting him to the forefront of music in the early and mid-2010s, Hozier’s choice to wait five years to release a follow-up album seemed like a risk at first glance.
The risk was worth the reward.
With “Wasteland, Baby!” Hozier has successfully blended more experimental sounds with the throaty, gospel-esque sound that fans have been waiting on for half a decade. He keeps the quintessential steel guitar and heavy drum line for the majority while still adding chords from pipe organs and layered choirs.
The album begins with “Nina Cried Power,” a political anthem that reflects the change led by lyrics of Nina Simone and Woody Guthrie. With a Mavis Staples feature, Hozier honors freedom fighters past.
“It’s not the shade we should be cast in,” he sings. “It’s the light and it’s the obstacle that casts it / It’s the heat that drives the light / It’s the fire it ignites.”
In an interview with Pandora, the 28-year-old said he was inspired by the connections between people during such polarizing times.
“The central theme to ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ is confronting the anxieties and concerns of the weird spirits of our times and worst-case scenarios but still knowing the warm center of people is still there,” he said. “Their capacity of the best things is still there. In the way we can credit the worst things, we can still credit the good things we have.”
The standout song that Hozier released with this album is “Dinner & Diatribes,” a fast-paced track that details the stresses and fantasies of romantic tension. With a groovy guitar riff and classic Hozier vocals, this song leaves you wanting more even after almost four minutes.
The title track for this album closes it nicely. The warped acoustic vocals are reminiscent of the cover art that features the young singer relaxing in an armchair underwater. With a breathy tone that reflects the sound of fan-favorite “Cherry Wine,” he sings of relishing in the feeling of being in love despite the risks of heartbreak.
“And I love, too / That love soon might end,” he sings. “Be known in its aching / Shown in the shaking / Lately of my wasteland, baby.”
In a time where the term “singer-songwriter” has been watered down to a loose description of any sap with an acoustic guitar, Hozier, once again, triumphs lyrically and musically, manages to avoid the sophomore slump and continues to stake his claim on indie rock and the blues.