Molly Atchison | Editor-in-Chief
A reclusive and enigmatic musician has returned to the mainstage with a firey new extended play record (EP). Last thursday at 1:30 p.m., Irish indie rock powerhouse Andrew Hozier-Byrne, better known as Hozier, reentered the world after spending three and a half years virtually off the grid, working on new content. The four songs pushed in his new EP “Nina Cried Power” are the culmination of Hozier’s time away from the music limelight, and it is everything fans could possibly want.
The title track of the EP, “Nina Cried Power” is brilliant enough alone. Starting with a powerhouse such as this song was a brilliant move. The politically charged lyrics, along with Hozier’s collaboration with revolutionary gospel and blues singer Mavis Staples bring new life to Hozier’s overall sound. His soulful voice has been a pleasant surprise in the past, but “Nina Cried Power” channeled all of that soul and gave it purpose. The chorus of the song lists different musicians who have represented minorities and states that each cried “power” (Nina cried power, Blessing cried power, Sinead cried power, etc.). The list goes on, and each person on the list is recognized as a musician who has made political statements through their music. Hozier’s chorus pinpoints the power of music to influence political action, and backs it up with his own lyrics and background melodies that provide a nod to the original political music movements: Gospel and blues.
Mavis Staples’ influence in the lyrics and the melody is clear though the gospel choir ringing in the background of the growling chorus, and the free-flowing melody Hozier carries, changing notes when it feels right. Staples and Hozier perfectly blended their unique sounds together to profess their own gospel, and goodness is it sweet to hear.
The other three songs are more reminiscent of Hozier’s self-titled first album, as well as his “From Eden” EP; however, each one is unique in its own way, and demonstrates a certain amount of growth in the singer’s work. Hozier, known for his poetic lyrics and disregard for normative verse construction, has transformed his slow ballad and powerful crooner sound into something much more complex.
Although his popular hits have been ones with a more catchy tune, such as “Take Me to Church” and “Cherry Wine”, songs such as “Sedated” and “From Eden” are better examples of Hozier’s unique musical style. In the “Nina Cried Power” EP, “Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)” and “Shrike” exemplify the classic Hozier sound. The lyrical flow of these two songs is much harder to decipher than that of “Nina Cried Power”. While they both have distinct verse-chorus differentiation, both also follow the lead of the title track in their free-flowing lyrics and their bluesy guitar melodies. No rhyme or reason is needed with Hozier’s songs because the tune and the lyrics make each song unique.
Hozier took a more hard-rock-meets-blues approach to his new album. With stronger guitar presence and hard-hitting choruses, Hozier’s lyrics don’t get lost as they sometimes did in his self-titled debut album, but they also allow for him to experiment more with the musical side. This is most evident in the fourth song on his new EP, “NFWMB”. This passionate, growling song carries the twinging guitar plucks he’s well known for, but incorporates a more mainstream alternative-rock vibe in the lyrics and the synth-y harmonies layered on his voice.
All in all, Hozier’s sound hasn’t necessarily strayed from his norm, but perhaps has blossomed from it. It doesn’t seem like he is as attached to a certain sound as he was in the first album. The difference between the title track and his final track “Shrike” is so stark that some might even question if the same person was behind the sound. This not only shows the versatility of Hozier’s vocal range, but also in the way he approaches each sound and how he collaborates with other artists.
Hozier’s full album is expected to drop in 2019, and it’s clear from these four songs that he has not lost his passion over the past three years — rather, he has shifted away from storytelling and abstract poetry into more concrete commentary in his lyrics, and yet has not lost his pure musical talent.