In 2014, Hozier released an eponymous debut studio album that garnered international fame. The lead track “Take Me to Church” earned multi-platinum certifications as well as a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year in 2015.
Five years removed from his triumphant debut, the Irish folk singer has returned to release his sophomore album titled “Wasteland, Baby!” The 14-track album features a familiar folk-inspired voice. The new release contains many of the same relaxing and soulful tunes that made fans fall in love with the first album. Hozier also demonstrates his impressive songwriting capabilities with profound lyrics and meaningful cultural references throughout the entirety of the project.
“Wasteland, Baby!” includes two songs from Hozier’s short four-song EP “Nina Cried Power” that released in 2018. The two songs featured are “Shrike,” and the titular track “Nina Cried Power,” which is also the opening track on the new album. “Nina Cried Power” incorporates phenomenal vocals by Mavis Staples, who is widely regarded to be one of the best gospel singers of her generation. The song serves as a protest anthem with a chorus shouting out other legendary artists who doubled as political activists. These artists include Nina Simone and Billie Holliday. The line “It’s not the song, it is the singing. It’s the Heaven of a human spirit ringing” references singing as a form of protest toward human suffering.
The first single of the album, titled “Movement,” was released in November 2018. The soulful track beckons listeners to swing back and forth with the music. The artist explained that “rather than write a dance song, it’s much easier to write a song about dancing.” The stark contrast between the smooth verses and eruptive chorus is reminiscent of waves in an ocean. The range and clarity of Hozier’s vocals combined with the ingenuity of the production clearly make “Movement” the best song of the album.
What made Hozier’s first album so great, though, was that every song had its own distinct sound and energy. Each chorus had a unique flow that was surprising and interesting. This made listeners want to press replay and sing along.
The tracks on “Wasteland, Baby!” did not seem to have that same unique quality that the songs on the first album did. The second half of the album tended to blend together. It lacked tracks that were able to stand out from the crowd. They all seemed to have the same smooth blend of folk melodies. This made the latter half of the album function well as background music for studying or relaxing but not as music to sing along to.
Unfortunately, it’s always tough to live up to a debut album that reached the kind of success that “Hozier (Expanded Edition)” did in 2014. Despite waiting 5 years for the debut hype to wind down, “Wasteland, Baby” still falls victim to the sophomore album slump.
Matt Souvigney is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.