Hozier: Hozier

(Columbia Records)

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Irish sing-songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne seems to have accomplished the impossible. As of this writing, his debut music video, “Take Me to Church,” has over ten million views on YouTube, in no small part due to the video’s condemnation of the Russian government’s persecution of LGBT individuals. Going viral is often a fleeting pop phenomenon, but with a following quickly established, Hozier has delivered a debut album every bit as thoughtful, soulful, and moving as his lead single.

Many of the tracks on Hozier explore the anguish of love experienced and lost, often put in hyperbolic terms favored by blues artists. “From Eden,” which has received a makeover since Hozier’s From Eden EP, invokes serpent imagery to describe the torture of longing. “In a Week” pairs a delicate acoustic arrangement and guest vocals from Karen Cowley with a romanticized tale of lovers left for dead to share eternity together. Again transcending mortality, the chorus of “Work Song” insists that even death itself could not keep him from returning to his lover.

But even in the midst of writing about love, Hozier throws in enough culture to elevate his writing. The simple romance of “To Be Alone” is all the more striking after taking a swipe at “anthems of rape culture” from “crude and proud creatures.” Elsewhere, those with a sharp ear and a literary bent will be able to identify a James Joyce quote in “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene.” “Jackie and Wilson” is one of the most radio-friendly songs on the album with its mainstream rock sound, but the chorus and title pay tribute to the influential R&B man. And what other commercial release this year will feature bluesy resonator guitar?

Each song on Hozier shows gleaming intelligence, emotional depth, and lush instrumentation. This is real music, folks. Put on your headphones, pour a glass of wine, and let Hozier render the dark parts of the soul beautiful.

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About Casey Hicks

Casey Hicks toils her daylight hours away in an office high above Manhattan in order to afford nights of passionately scribbling. The first song she remembers ever hearing is "Lola" by the Kinks. She thinks this explains a lot.
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