Reflecting on Hozier’s first studio album in preparation for the release of his third
With his gut-wrenchingly whimsical lyrics and ethereal vocals, Irish singer-songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne, known by his musical alias Hozier, has been sweeping his listeners off of their feet since he began releasing music. This past week, Hozier released Swan Upon Leda, his first single since last year’s Tell It To My Heart featuring Meduza. With the release of Swan Upon Leda and the announcement of his upcoming studio album, Unreal Unearth, new and seasoned Hozier fans alike will be re-listening to the works of art he has released. This includes his first album, 2014’s Hozier, a fifteen-track international platinum masterpiece that has topped multiple charts. As harrowing as it is heartwarming, Hozier is not an album to miss. As easy as it would be to review and analyse each of the fifteen songs from the album, this article would then be so long that it would bleed into the Opinions section of The Argosy. A sample of synopses is all you’ll need to be hooked on Hozier, and will leave you craving more.
The album begins with Take Me To Church, arguably Hozier’s most popular single. Centering around themes of religious trauma and homophobia, this haunting tale of love and discrimination introduces its audience to Hozier’s echoey vocal style, heavy bass and percussion, and the importance of a dedicated backup vocal choir in Hozier’s songs. He flexes his musicianship by flawlessly describing the feat of loving someone when you are told not to and met with the burden of hatred. He cries, “We’ve a lot of starving faithful / That looks tasty / That looks plenty / This is hungry work”. Hozier invites the audience to feel the craving of love and the work that goes into it when you cannot have it safely. Hozier creates a space for listeners to safely release anguish if they have been a victim of the themes he sings about.
The second track off the album, Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene, is a dark ka-thump of a trac. Hozier sings of a person being as addictive as a drug: “Feeling more human and hooked on her flesh/I Lay my heart down with the rest at her feet/Fresh from the fields, all fetor and fertile/Bloody and raw, but I swear it is sweet”. It is the first introduction we get to Hozier’s highly ambiguous lyrics. His songwriting and storytelling gives audiences the space to explore their own minds, making their own meaning for his bassy, beautiful songs. Who is “she”? Is she a person, a drug, an item, a feeling? That is not set in stone. It is personal to the listener.
Hozier has a beautifully raw and powerful view on love, sex, and the overpowering feeling of fallling for someone. Someone New brings a splash of a feeling that Hozier replicates in a stunning and respectful fashion in many of his songs: lust. String-heavy and bright, the album’s third track centers around Hozier singing about how he “fall[s] in love just a little, oh a little bit every day with someone new.” The song is chalked full of romantic crescendos and flirty repetition. Just before the bridge, Hozier sings about falling in love (just a little, oh a little bit every day with someone new) repeatedly until his chorus of angels bursts into a beautiful fortissimo of joy, where he begins to repeats that he’s in “love with every stranger, the stranger the better.” If feelings were definitions, this song would be the definition of a first kiss. This song is a musical interpretation of lusty, passionate butterflies.
In the same vein, the smoky and sensual To Be Alone is so full of tension you could cut it with a knife. It is a nod to the beauty of shameless desire and being candid about how much you want someone or something. In the chorus, Hozier is deliciously adamant, repeating “It feels good, girl, it feels good” as if it is the last words he will ever say. He sings “But I don’t know what else that I would do/Than to try to kiss the skin that crawls from you/Than feel your weight in arms I’d never use/It’s the god that heroin prays to” and has his audience practically begging for more, which he provides.
The sixth track, From Eden, feels equally as sinful, but more upbeat and poppy. In From Eden, Hozier’s chorus is tastefully impure: “Honey, you’re familiar like my mirror years ago/Idealism sits in prison, chivalry fell on its sword/Innocence died screaming, honey, ask me I should knowI slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door.” In this song that is so full of sin and wickedness, Hozier somehow dollops honey in the middle of it, singing pet names with luxurious choral notes behind them. He calls the listener “babe” at the beginning of each set of verses, and “honey” at the beginning of each chorus. It is sinfully sweet, leaving the listener eager for more at the singer’s beck and call.
In A Week features the hauntingly beautiful voice of Karen Cowley. The voices of the two artists flirt and intermingle in a way that feels incredibly natural. Their voices touch, and then bounce off of each other, as though they were dancing with one another. It is magical to listen to. Literally, this song tells the story of two lovers who decompose together under the dying leaves and trees, staying intertwined until they are found together in the spring. Somehow, though, Hozier and Cowley’s ghastly duet makes this song feel as though it is one of the most romantic songs off of the album. This brutally raw song feels like the season of fall, and being ‘at home’ with someone. It is crunching leaves, it is the Earth dying so it can be reborn. It is a slow, meaningful rebirth for the ears.
In a similar fall fashion, Like Real People Do is an unforgettable ode to the love of one’s life. A quiet, ethereal ballad of affection, this song also has elements of loving someone relentlessly and through the most difficult of elements. Hozier sings, “I will not ask you where you came from/I will not ask and neither should you/Honey, just put your sweet lips on my lips/We should just kiss like real people do” and gives the listeners a glimpse of true love and devotion. No questioning, no screaming, nothing loud or scary. Just love and trust. Just before the end of the chorus, Hozier’s outstanding backup vocalists explode onto a godly chorus of vocalisations, chilling the listener’s spine and warming their heart simultaneously. This song feels like quiet, fire-side love. A type of love that is somehow chilling and warming at the same time. It is indescribably tender.
Hooked on Hozier yet? These seven songs make up less than half of this enchanting album. It is available on all popular streaming services, and before the release of Unreal Unearth, every aspiring Hozier fan should fall in love (just a little, oh, a little bit) with his first studio masterpiece — ahem, I mean — album.