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Hozier has sprung up on the music scene fairly suddenly, having only released his debut EP Take Me To Church around this time last year. Since then, he has released a second EP and, more recently, his self-titled debut album.
For big fans of Hozier, much of the content on the album will be familiar. 6 of the 13 songs on the tracklist have appeared on either of his EPs. The first track, ‘Take Me To Church’, is one of these, and seems to have been virtually unchanged from its original appearance on the EP that shares its name. The choice to use it as the first track on the album feels very deliberate; much of his success has stemmed from the single going viral on Youtube almost a year ago and the opening verse highlights Hozier’s powerful voice perfectly. It sounds like something that should be echoing around grand cathedrals and it has an inexplicable power, given that it features only vocals and piano.
Hozier has always identified himself as being influenced by a whole host of musical genres, having been raised by a blues musician and going through the obvious Pink Floyd phase in his teens, among other things. This is evident throughout the album, which switches from epic piano to funky electric guitar to delicate acoustics which incredible ease.
So, who is this long haired, husky voiced singer? Hozier’s full name is Andrew Hozier-Byrne and he hails from Wicklow Hills in County Wicklow, Ireland. ‘In A Week’, the haunting track 7 featuring guest vocals from Karen Cowley, is actually written about this home town. The song tells the tale of two lovers who end up dead in a field surrounded by flora and fauna, and Hozier says that he wrote this with his hometown in mind because “Anytime you hear Wicklow Hills, it’s usually before or after the words ‘a body was found’.”
Bit grim? As well as the links with his Irish roots, death and religion (sometimes both) are pretty key themes throughout the record. However, there are definitely some more upbeat moments too. For me, ‘Jackie and Wilson’ is a particular highlight. Featuring a wink and nod to his musical upbringing as well as offering an homage to one of his influences, Jackie Wilson (“we’ll name our children Jackie and Wilson / raise ‘em on rhythm and blues”), the third track from the album is a definite must-hear.
The album ends on ‘Cherry Wine’, the first song written for the record and a live version that was recorded late at night in an abandoned hotel. The rawness of this recording pretty much sums up Hozier as an artist; his live work is just as brilliant as his studio produced singles, if not more so. Any singer who can get away with putting a song on their album that was recorded at 5am in a graffiti-covered shack is definitely worth a listen. Hozier’s debut is certainly no exception.
Hozier can be purchased at all the usual music outlets. He is also playing at The Ritz, Manchester, on November 12th – contact the venue for tickets.