Gentlemanly Jams – Hozier’s “Wasteland, Baby!”
Though it’s now December, we have yet to start blasting holiday music here at the shop. Instead, we’re revisiting the Gentlemanly Jams series, this time discussing Hozier’s “Wasteland, Baby!”
Who is Hozier?
Andrew John Hozier-Byrne is a 30-year-old Irish singer-songwriter. You already know him and how he sounds – 2013’s “Take Me To Church” was inescapable after it was released. Between a drummer father and an artist mother, it’s no surprise that his life went in the direction it did. In an ironic twist, he missed exams for his Music Education degree at Trinity College in Dublin to record music, and they wouldn’t give him a year’s deferment.
His style, which he’s been developing since the age of 15, is firmly grounded in soul with blues, folk, and R&B influences throughout. The man sings extremely well, with a rich voice and solid range. His music has a warm, organic sound to it, notably with lushly-arranged backing vocals and instrumentation.
“Wasteland, Baby!” was released in 2019, well before a worldwide pandemic and economic turmoil. Lyrically, there’s a strong undercurrent of activism – the intro track, “Nina Cried Power,” is a testament to the likes of her, Bob Dylan, and other famous musicians who used their status to speak truth to power.
If there’s one word that could describe the album, it would be “moody.” This is not an album to listen to if you want upbeat, happy vibes in the air. That’s not to say that it’s depressing or anything like that, but it’s serious, and it takes itself seriously. Musically, the album is simultaneously layered and accessible – there’s a lot going on in terms of instrumentation, but it’s not overly complicated.
On the whole, this album grooves. Most of the tracks are danceable – not dance music, but danceable – and those that aren’t still retain a bluesy, soulful quality that’s, well, moving. While the musicians on the album are clearly quite solid, it’s Hozier’s voice that takes center stage. It’s soulful, powerful, and impassioned. Critics compare him to Jeff Buckley (which typically happens with any male powerhouse vocalist), but his voice is thicker and rounder. It also does not have the high range that Buckley’s did.
If you haven’t heard it yet, the single “Movement” is an exercise in delayed gratification. You have to wait nearly three full minutes for the drums to kick in, but when they do, the effect will blow you away.
If you like soulful vocals, layered instrumentation, and a bluesy/folksy sound, we encourage you to give Hozier’s “Wasteland, Baby!” a listen. Care to share your thoughts on it? Contact us anytime.