Activist anthems or ennui made sexy? Hozier does both

Hozier made history in 2014 when his best-known song, “Take Me to Church,” climbed to the tops of charts across the globe after the release of its accompanying music video. It provided a scathing commentary on the hypocrisy of the Catholic church and flung pent-up religious repression of human expression back in its face. 

He hadn’t released a full-length album since then – until earlier this month. And his fans are eating up these graceful, but lascivious forest nymph king vibes. 

His sophomore album, “Wasteland, Baby!” is the culmination of a year’s worth of previously released singles and new tracks, such as “Sunlight” and “Would That I.”

Andrew Hozier-Byrne, known by his mother’s maiden name, is also renowned for his poetic lyrics – often invoking a beautiful, but unhinged woman from whom his eyes can’t tear away. 

Perhaps one of the most evocative examples of his lyricism is displayed in “Shrike,” a sweet song of quatrains and named for a carnivorous bird – “Remember me, love, when I’m reborn / As a shrike to your sharp and glorious thorn.”

In the upbeat tune, “Dinner and Diatribes,” Hozier gets eyebrows raised with this pleading line – “I’d suffer Hell if you’d tell me / What you’d do to me tonight.”

The album starts off directly naming a real-life female figure, however. In the aptly powerfully toned, eponymous song, “Nina Cried Power,” Hozier refers to Nina Simone, along with other musical talents of the American civil rights movement, including Billie Holiday, Curtis Mayfield, and even Mavis Staples, who joins him on this track.

My favorite song, “No Plan,” the longest track of the album at 5 minutes and 31 seconds, is evocative of many other Hozier songs – a sensuous, sexy ballad that makes the listener envision the musician crooning to his lover of the frivolity of the universe. “There’s no plan, there’s no race to be run / The harder the rain, honey, the sweeter the sun / There’s no plan, there’s no kingdom to come / I’ll be your man if you got love to get done.”

Hozier even name drops Katherine J. Mack, an astrophysicist and professor at North Carolina State University – “As Mack explained, there will be darkness again” – to illustrate the concepts of entropy and increasing galactic disorder.

With this album, Hozier shows versatility and creativity, evident of the unique brand he’s cultivated through songs as daring and unrestrained as his hair.

Whether he’s singing about watching his pyromaniac lover set fire to the world in “Nothing F***s With My Baby,” or paying tribute to the great jazz icons of the 20th century in “Almost (Sweet Music),” Hozier captivates listeners and allows apocalyptic drama to unfold right before their eyes.

The album is deeply significant of relevant social issues, but also peppered with relatable millennial flair – the world is ending, God doesn’t exist, so let’s love, because who’s stopping us from throwing all caution to the wind with reckless, wanton abandon – “That’s just wasteland, baby!”

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