Casual Cadenza: Dissociating to Hozier

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Hozier 2015. Photo by Andrew Humphreys

In the midst of experiencing a harrowing semester, bouts of existentialism, hatred for capitalist society and wishing COVID-19 a happy one year, I wouldn’t exactly say I’ve developed a joyful mindset. On the contrary, trying to juggle the incessant demands of Zoom school and intrusive thoughts that confirm my fears of being trapped in an exploitative economic system surprisingly doesn’t supply me with a high enough dose of serotonin. 

While a healthy amount of face-to-face social interaction would usually serve as an adequate distraction, like many things, Ms. Rona has managed to ruin that as well. Lately, things suck more than usual and by now, I’ve run out of ways to cope — to the point where even listening to music has gotten tiring. So instead of focusing on newly discovered tracks, I decided to dedicate this week’s column to an artist I haven’t listened to in a while. 

Irish singer-songwriter Andrew John Hozier-Byrne — or as everyone knows him, Hozier — garnered critical acclaim with the release of his debut album in 2014. “Take Me to Church” gained popular attention for its religious lyricism comparing Catholic devotion to faithfulness in romance, as well as praise for Hozier’s vocal ability. The song made it to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and its success eventually led to its 2015 Grammy nomination for “Song of the Year.” 

Five years later, his second album “Wasteland, Baby!” received further acclaim, topping at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and being certified gold in the U.S. I wasn’t aware of this release until a couple of days ago, when I stumbled upon a TikTok that used “Wasteland, Baby!” as a sound. As the last track on the album, the song finishes off Hozier’s string of work with peaceful vibes delivered by a soft acoustic folk ballad — something I apparently desperately needed. 

Mayo Clinic defines dissociative disorders as “mental disorders that involve experiencing a disconnection and lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, surroundings, actions and identity. People with dissociative disorders escape reality in ways that are involuntary and unhealthy and cause problems with functioning in everyday life.” Clearly, dissociation carries harmful connotations, and in no way am I promoting it as a method of dealing with traumatic events. If that’s the case, I’d recommend talking to a professional who can help. 

On the other hand, the idea of disconnecting from thoughts, feelings and the world around you doesn’t seem like a bad option when things get overwhelming. I like to think of it as giving yourself a break when you can’t get one. And considering we were supposed to have spring break around this time (had Ms. Rona not made her worldwide debut), dissociating for the sake of saving yourself from another mental breakdown can only be deemed as an act of self-care. 

It turns out Hozier’s music serves as the perfect soundtrack to my dissociative fantasies. Thus began my navigation through his discography, listening to old favorites like “Cherry Wine” and “Like Real People Do,” along with new favorites from his second album including “As It Was” and “Shrike” — all of which make me feel like my dreams of living far away in a cottage in Switzerland aren’t so far-fetched after all. 

Maybe transcendentalists were onto something. Maybe all I want to do now is lay in a flower field with a pocket-sized Hozier by my side who can pull out his guitar and just start singing at any time. At least in that scenario, I wouldn’t have to worry about college or any other responsibilities that fail in undermining my uncertainty for the future. And having that bit of time to forget takes me to a happier place. 

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