Album Review: Hozier – Self Titled

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It’s been a year since Bray-born Hozier released his first EP, Take Me To Church’. After much anticipation, the singer-songwriter has released his first full-length album.

Hozier has seen an unforeseen amount of airplay since the release of his first single ‘Take Me To Church’. This song captured the attention of the nation and made them hungry for more from the Irish soul singer. Their appetite was whetted with the release of the popular ‘From Eden’, and more recent single ‘Sedated’. 

Now, though, Hozier treats his fans with a 13-track album, which definitely lived up to its huge expectations. Opening with his biggest hit to date, ‘Take Me To Church’, we’re reminded of the very reason we fell in love with his music in the first place. The song remains as fresh and powerful as it was when we first heard it, making it a welcome introduction to the self-titled record.

Next up is ‘Angel Of Small Death & The Codeine Scene’. This track was also featured on the ‘Take Me To Church’ EP last year, so it once again won’t be new to fans. However, to keep said fans interested, Hozier has upgraded the song considerably. With added guitar layers and a drum beat that changes the feel of the song, this song has received a new lease of life.

Jackie And Wilson’ can be described best as a cool, laid back bluesy song. Hozier has stated the song is a sort of tribute to one of his biggest influences, Jackie Wilson. The song carries a classic, old-school feel with somewhat tongue-in-cheek lyrics about a relationship with a girl. This relationship will apparently culminate with the couple naming their children Jackie and Wilson, while they “raise them on rhythm and blues”. ‘Jackie And Wilson’ is definitely a stand-out track on the album and is an absolute must hear.

‘Someone New’ is a song that few will have heard before, and an incredible addition to the album it is, loaded with a chorus that’ll instantly stick in your head for the rest of the week. The incredible feature of this song is its moderate simplicity. There is nothing overly complex in the music, and even the chorus’ lyrics are just the repeated phrase of “I fall in love just a little, ol’ little bit, every day, with someone new”. You could argue the simplicity is the most appealing factor of the track, making it one you’ll keep coming back to.

Following this is ‘To Be Alone’. Fans who have seen Hozier live recently will likely have heard this one in his sets. Possibly the bluesiest song on the album, ‘To Be Alone’ is a fairly mellow song that still manages to pack a serious punch during the chorus. The guitar licks, which mainly follow the main and backing vocals, are slick and simply awesome. I expect ‘To Be Alone’ to join Hozier’s list of set staples for his shows.

‘From Eden’, similarly to ‘Take Me To Church’, is still featured quite prominently on radio playlists internationally. The ever-so-popular single has a different aura surrounding it than the other songs on the album. Hozier has said before that the song is written from the perspective of the devil looking upon something so innocent and pure that he cannot resist it nor corrupt it. Despite the considerably dark theme surrounding the track, the music and melodies are quite uplifting and bright.

The album takes a fairly dark turn with ‘In A Week’, yet still remains beautiful. Featuring the incredible voice of Wyvern Lingo’s Karen Cowley, this track is reminiscent of the work of American musical duo The Civil Wars. This song is followed by Hozier’s current single, ‘Sedated’. Although not a new track, it’s still a brilliant addition to his first studio effort.

‘Work Song’ was featured on the ‘From Eden’ EP, and still retains it’s appeal all these months later. This song is reminiscent of century-old gospels, though is a testament of Hozier’s ability to write and perform soul and blues tracks to perfection.

Like Real People Do’ has been a fan favourite from day one. The acoustic guitar backed by the female vocals is hauntingly beautiful, going hand in hand with the gorgeous lyrics. Unfortunately, somewhere between the track’s EP appearance to being slotted into the album, a vocal echo effect was placed over the recording, arguably reducing the intimacy of the song, alienating the listener from hearing the raw talent in Hozier’s voice.

‘It Will Come Back’ wouldn’t be out of place on an Elbow album, packed with a sweet riff played on a slide guitar with a beautiful cello playing alongside it. The song  has a great range of dynamics, starting off fairly quiet until the first chorus where it really picks up in volume. After this is another new song in the form of ‘Foreigner’s God’, a song that shows off Hozier’s ability to play in a variety of styles. The track is different to all the others found on the album, being reminiscent of an Adele song with a more soulful edge to it.

Closing the album is a song that I’ve always felt slipped under the radar somehow. ‘Cherry Wine’ is a song that has seemingly never been recorded in a studio. Instead, ‘Cherry Wine’ was originally recorded on the roof of a hotel, live. There are no special effects here, just the simple plucking of an acoustic guitar while Hozier’s voice rings over the notes. The beauty of the live recording in this specific location lies in the sounds of the birds tweeting and singing in the background, something that can’t, or shouldn’t, be fabricated.

Overall, Hozier’s first attempt at a full-length album is one with almost no faults. The true genius behind the songwriting on the album is found in the simplicity of each song. Without over complicating things, Hozier has managed to compile 13 incredibly beautiful tracks – all of which could probably hold their own against some of the top songs of any generation.

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