The second I heard the name of Hozier’s newest album, I was obsessed.
Wasteland, Baby! is perfectly on brand for Hozier, who is no stranger to making sweet and light of destruction or violence. The title describes his album perfectly. His songs manage to address social, generational and emotional darkness while maintaining an unmistakably mischievous spirit. In an interview with NPR, Hozier said that despite the gloominess of the album, it’s a record that’s meant to be overall “hopeful and optimistic.”
With the album on repeat all weekend, life has seemed a bit dreamier, even a bit more important. The songs have a way of sifting through your mind and allowing old memories to drift forward. At one point, originally on the way to the store, I found myself pulling into the college’s campus after a full twenty minutes of driving, Wasteland, Baby! still blaring through my radio. I was amazed that I even made it there: rather than paying attention to the road or my destination, I’d been reminiscing on scenes both unremembered for years and tearing at the seams from constant unfolding. Hozier’s songs have skirted demanding attention and transcended instead into inviting listeners to reflect in upon themselves.
This weekend, with Hozier on repeat, I attempted to reconnect with an old friend. I dusted off my old notebooks full of unfinished stories and began to write with renewed inspiration. As deeply unique as his sound is, it strikes a chord within me that rings loud enough to wake muses I wasn’t sure still existed, muses for healing relationships, moving on from the past and creating art.
Listeners looking for a repeat of the deep and moving lyrics as well as flowing melodies from Hozier’s namesake first album won’t be disappointed. “Almost (Sweet Music)”’s satisfying, and light-hearted melody reminds me of Hozier’s “Jackie and Wilson,” while “Cherry Wine” and “In a Week” from that same album have strong ties to “Shrike,” all three of which set the gentle tune of a guitar behind a soft, quiet and subtly violent melody.
The love songs on Hozier are unparalleled, especially “Take Me to Church,” the tune that skyrocketed the singer to fame almost overnight in 2013. At first, I was almost afraid to come across the inevitable murmured love lyrics of the slower songs on this album. It’s rare that an artist can follow up the expectations that a first album sets, especially if that album is as famous and worshipped as Hozier. Although this album isn’t quite as deeply sad as his first, Hozier has managed to do the near impossible: not sell out. His songs are still unusual and difficult to interpret. He has continued to explore a vast range of sounds and genres. His albums are related without being identical, different without being inconsistent. It’s an album that took five years to complete, and you can tell.
While Hozier featured heavy hearted lyrics on top of sunny melodies (“Sedated,” “From Eden,” “Foreigner’s God”), Wasteland, Baby! does the opposite. The dark, gloomy songs on this album retain a sense of hope, from the mischievous “Dinner and Diatribes” to the powerful and loving, but still doleful, “Wasteland, Baby!” itself.
It’s been five years of nearly uninterrupted silence from Hozier, during which time his fans satiated their hunger for his distinct, mystical sound by listening to his namesake album on repeat. For me, at least, Hozier’s heartbreaking voice and range of melodies never got old. For now, we’ve been gifted with 14 brand new songs to learn, and I’m confident they’ll hold us over as Hozier slinks back into shadowy oblivion and begins the creation process all over again.
Top five songs on Wasteland, Baby!
1. Wasteland, Baby!: As the namesake of the album as well as the final song, “Wasteland, Baby!” holds some significance to Hozier’s latest record. It manages this pressure effortlessly. I can’t possibly describe the beauty of this song. It gives me the same feeling of profound transformation by the last note that “Cherry Wine” gave me, that watching the sun rise in the morning gives me, that finishing a new favorite novel gives me. Its quiet, mumbled lyrics erupt in moments of clarity for the repeated line: “Wasteland, baby, I’m in love, I’m in love with you.” It’s a song about love, about cherishing love because you know it’s going to end, about seeing the beginning, middle and eventual destruction of love and pursuing it, anyway. If you’re on the lookout for a stunning new tune, you’ve found it.
2. No Plan: This song is spectacular. It’s an instant classic. The beguiling instrumentals at the beginning, his clear-as-glass voice, the stunning lyrics. It’s a song I can listen to forever without tiring of. The song flows smoothly from one piece to another, the tone never interrupted or tangled. The halting of the instrumentals throughout the song falls, each time, on the indescribably perfect moment, lending always to the perfect path on which the tune flows.
3. Movement: From the echoing beat to the smooth, gentle vocals, “Movement” has a distinct underwater tone that feels perfectly at home under the watery album cover. I couldn’t ask for anything more from this song, it had beautiful lyrics, chilling vocals, unencumbered beat.
4. Nobody: It’s clear that Hozier had fun while writing and performing this song. It’s playful and casual and hasn’t failed yet to bring a smile to my face. The lyrics are ironic and self–deprecating, and everything about the song is mischievous. The only critique I have for this song is that it’s too short, a meager four minutes of verse–bridge–chorus–verse–bridge–chorus–end that closes far too soon and implores replay after replay.
5. Talk: The seriousness and sensuality of this song’s lyrics are paired beautifully with the roguish instrumentals, creating a wicked, smirking sort of song that’s all the more fun to listen to because of its self–awareness. This song is about nothing but imagining spending a night with another person, and it goes for it with smug abandon.