Hozier - “Wasteland, Baby!” Album Review

posted March 11, 2019 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Zach Hall

Irish musician and singer/songwriter Hozier saw a rise in popularity following his 2013 debut EP, featuring the radio hit “Take Me To Church.” His self titled debut studio album “Hozier” released a year later and received positive reviews with the help of a number of hit singles.

Hozier made waves with his mix of blues, gospel, and folk with a hint of pop to tie everything together. What resulted was an album with a vibrant soundscape and a ton of emotion. Hozier’s sophomore album “Wasteland, Baby!” takes this formula and attempts to bring it to the next level. For the most part, “Wasteland, Baby!” succeeds in doing so with only a few minor hiccups along the way.

What made Hozier so catchy in the past is on full display. Hozier’s crooning and, at times, quivering delivery of the lyrics on his songs give emphasis to the emotional weight of Hozier’s subject matter. The same can be said when Hozier sings with all his might to accompany the booming instrumental as all the parts come together. Emotional weight displayed through emotional performances characterized a majority of “Hozier,” and the same can be said for “Wasteland, Baby!”

Much like “Hozier,” “Wasteland, Baby!” is a speeding train of emotion from start to finish. Many of the themes exemplified on this album are very similar to “Hozier." While this could be detrimental to other artists, Hozier sticks the landing thanks to stellar production and instrumentation, as well as an always excellent delivery that gives weight and immediacy to the emotional lyrics.

While “Wasteland, Baby!” sounds great from start to finish (with only a few downfalls), it is clear that what Hozier is trying to say on the album has not advanced much past what he was trying to say on “Hozier.” This does not diminish the quality of the sound but should be acknowledged as an issue when it becomes apparent.

While Hozier’s subject matter has not expanded or advanced much since his 2014 debut, his production value certainly has. While “Hozier” had plenty of great instrumentals that were both catchy and emotional, “Wasteland, Baby!” takes it up a notch.

The soundscape of “Wasteland, Baby!” is on a much grander scale, with booming choirs and heavy organs to accompany the twangy guitars featured in Hozier’s last project. This works best on songs like “Nina Cried Power” and “Movement,” both of which feature layered choir vocals and haunting organs. There is a healthy mix of slow emotional tracks as well as upbeat jam sessions featuring powerful vocals from Hozier.

“Wasteland, Baby!” drags a bit by the halfway mark, with a good few songs in the early portions of the album taking a more pop aesthetic, ultimately coming off a bit repetitive. Songs like “Nobody” and “Almost (Sweet Music)” are well mixed and performed, but are the least exciting.

Moving towards the latter half of the album is where the production and Hozier’s performance blend together excellently and really show how far he has come as an artist. Songs like “Would That I” and “Wasteland, Baby!” show Hozier at his best vocally and instrumentally. Both of these songs are good examples of how Hozier has improved his sound from his self-titled debut, despite not changing his subject matter all that much.

Overall, “Wasteland, Baby!” is an enjoying pop-folk album with plenty of gospel and blues to shake things up. While Hozier has not changed all that much as an artist since his 2014 debut, his music reflects a gentle nudge in a new, more adventurous direction.

“Wasteland, Baby!” is not too much different than “Hozier,” but shows that in terms of production value and musicianship, Hozier is making steps in the right direction. There was a five-year wait between studio albums from Hozier, so it is safe to say another project from Hozier is a long way away. When another album does roll around, hopefully, Hozier can continue to push his music forward.

Album Rating: 7/10

Reviewer’s Favorite Track: “Would That I”

Reviewer’s Least Favorite Track: “Dinner & Diatribes”

 

 

Zach Hall is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zth5043@psu.edu.