Wasteland, Baby!

On March 1, Irish musician Hozier released his second studio album “Wasteland, Baby!”

After five years of silence, the long-awaited return of Hozier is upon us. Since his debut album “Hozier” and its success, specifically “Take Me to Church,” he has only released an EP in 2018 with songs that reappear on his latest album “Wasteland, Baby!”

I have been a fan of Hozier for the past two years after I rediscovered his debut album. The overall sound of his music is melodic and folksy, while some songs are haunting and powerful. After waiting for the release of new music for too long, Hozier finally dropped “Wasteland, Baby!” on March 1.

My first impression of the album after a tentative listen was that he used similar sounds and vibes as his previous album, and I am both happy and disappointed that I did not hear any experimentation. However, that was only after listening to his album on shuffle for 15 minutes.

After listening to the entire album, I am pleased with his second album.

The first song “Nina Cried Power” was on his EP from 2018, but I hadn’t listened to it. The song is a great opening anthem with a powerful chorus that makes me want to run through the woods, which I find a common theme with Hozier’s work since he is so connected to nature throughout many songs.

“Almost (Sweet Music)” follows this strong opening anthem, but the backbeat seems similar to “From Eden” from “Hozier,” although it’s not identical. The song has a sweet melody, and I really enjoy the overlapping vocals near the end which add a dynamic effect to this otherwise nearly repeated work.

Many of my favorite songs by Hozier use haunting tones and low, soft singing, which is what “Movement” does. I can already tell that I am going to know every lyric to this song soon. The rhythm makes me bounce my head, and the beat utilizes clapping, which adds an almost staccato juxtaposition to the soft singing until the song erupts a third of the way through to a climax. I thoroughly adore this song.

Following this haunting work is “No Plan” which sounds like it has a jazz influence with a strong core melody. The song is five minutes long and switches from jazz to rock to folk to keep listeners interested. It is a successful experimentation by Hozier.

From the beginning of this next song, I loved the tone. “Nobody” sounds like it belongs in the background of a summer beach film because of the upbeat rhythm and backup instrumentals. Hozier’s voice melds with the music to form a beautiful love song.

“To Noise Making (Sing)” may be one of my favorite songs on this album. I can tell Hozier experimented with typical pop sounds in the background of a tambourine and a rising and falling melody. The chorus adds an emotional element that makes me want to get up and sing with him.

To contrast with the incredibly upbeat pop sound of the previous song, “As It Was” goes back to Hozier’s typical sound — an evocative and low melody that leads into a graceful ending. The juxtaposition from these two songs showcases Hozier’s musical genius and versatility.

“Shrike” is another song released on his EP. I had listened to this song last year and didn’t like it. However, after forcing myself to listen to this song because of my strong will to like Hozier, it has actually grown on me. The melody is similar to his previous work, and it is not my favorite on the album, but I do enjoy it as a relaxing and soothing song.

Hozier really experimented on “Talk” with western undertones and a deep acoustic leading the song. I can also immediately tell Hozier is telling a story with this work, and I love how Hozier interweaves storylines into his album like “In a Week” on “Hozier.” This song is unique from other songs on “Wasteland, Baby!”

Another song with heavy experimentation is “Be” with an electric guitar opening the song and leading into a rock-influenced beat. The chorus is incredibly beautiful and switches the tone to an operatic section that weaves into the rock melody.

“Dinner & Diatribes” follows this influence in rock, and Hozier’s strong singing, combined with spiritual background vocals, produces an impactful song. My only stipulation is the song is repetitive.

Hozier then returns to his folksy style of music with “Would That I.” The combination of lyrical singing and deep drums frames a relaxing and mystical song. Once again, Hozier incorporates the feeling of nature and mystic into lyric, and this song is a primary example of his talent in doing so. I feel like I should be listening to this song around a bonfire and singing with him — that’s the power Hozier has over the listener’s mood.

Continuing the natural theme throughout the album, “Sunlight” brings in aspects of nature with a deep church organ in the background of the chorus.

The repetition of “Sunlight” is reminiscent of church hymns, which seems to be Hozier’s influence behind the structure of this song.

While the song is repetitive, this time it is done well because it’s intentional. The bridge also brings in a tone of religion with a choral background and slowed instrumental. With aspects of religion woven throughout, the song is impactful.

Finally, Hozier’s final song on the album is “Wasteland, Baby!” Since it’s the title of the album, certain expectations need to be met about the production of this song. It did not disappoint. The opening melody is soft and slow, much like other Hozier songs, but it’s more grungy and tells a story throughout. The style of his singing and the up and down instrumental, followed by his soothing voice, creates a relaxing song and atmosphere. I feel much like the picture depicted on the album cover — Hozier sitting underwater in a chair looking into the distance. The final piece of work is nostalgic and mystical and soothing all wrapped into a beautiful song.

Overall, I am satisfied with “Wasteland, Baby!” — although I am biased because I have been a fan. Some songs are repetitive work from before, while others experiment with different styles and influences like rock and religion, and others follow his typical soothing, slow songs with great lyrics, rhythm and instrumentals to create a perfect concoction of music. 4.5/5