Release Date: Oct 7, 2014
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Folk, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Singer/Songwriter, Contemporary Folk
Andrew Hozier-Byrne, better known simply as Hozier, has been inescapable recently, his single "Take Me to Church" dominating rock and indie airwaves. On his full-length debut album, the Irish-born artist dives into the deep recesses of human understanding, forays into the occasionally subversive and is always insatiably inquisitive. The passionate examination of spiritual subject matter is supported by vocals that echo in the distant space of giant halls and empowered by choruses thick with gospel choirs.The son of a bluesman, Hozier imparts his musical influence on almost every track.
On his rich debut album, Hozier blends deep South R&B with mythical Celtic folk, slipping in a lick of Motown heartache when least expected. Gospel arrangements lift his mature vocals, coated in gravitas and doomed warnings, as he plays from the altar of his own heaven-shunned church, rousing his congregation with bluesy prayers and demands for forgiveness straight from Van Morrison’s soul. The exorcism of Hozier’s sins only dip when soft memories and quiet regrets are allowed space to settle, in heartfelt odes that would have brought Otis Redding to his knees, before then rising once more to call out for love from the top of a storm-drenched hill.
Born and bred in Ireland, singer/songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne, aka Hozier, draws on music from the American South: blues, soul, gospel and Southern rock. But he's got an Irish poet's turn of phrase (just listen to the first few lines of album opener Take Me To Church), and all kinds of lust, guilt and anti-religious sentiment swirl around to spice up his darkly romantic, bluntly sexual debut album. The seven songs from his two existing EPs (he left one track out) are consistently strong and weighty, while the six new ones vary just a little.
The recipient of much hype and praise for his breakthrough single "Take Me to Church," Ireland's Hozier does plenty to back it up on his self-titled debut LP. A soulful voice and a brooding mystique can get you a long way but fortunately, most of the material here is well-written enough to warrant a deeper look at the young artist many have labeled an old soul. Like fellow Irishman Van Morrison did decades before, Hozier (Andrew Hozier-Byrne) draws on the soul and R&B of Jackie Wilson and runs it through the mystery white-boy filter of Jeff Buckley, adding a touch of Bon Iver's rural indie aesthetic to mix into his own dark cocktail.
A few months ago, 24-year-old Andrew Hozier-Byrne was a little-known Irish singer-songwriter. But his YouTube hit "Take Me to Church" won him a wave of insta-hype, and his debut LP earns it. Blessed with a sensual singing voice and a seemingly bottomless well of lapsed-Catholic-style conflict, Hozier channels Van Morrison's Celtic R&B, Southern soul and Black Keys-style garage blues into intimately roiling songs like "Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene." On the Irish-folk lullaby "In a Week," he promises some lucky lass eternal rapture through the sweet embrace of shared death: "We'd become the flowers/We'd feed well the land." So down-to-earth! .
Although the pop singles charts are currently dominated by women, there’s a burgeoning movement of soulful male solo artists taking aim at stardom—led by a group that includes Australian folkie Vance Joy, British R&B star Sam Smith, and now the bluesy Irish singer-songwriter Hozier. Although the latter should receive a visibility boost when he appears on Saturday Night Live later this week, his first major career bump came last fall, when the video for “Take Me To Church” went viral on YouTube. This gospel-inflected, fire-and-brimstone song—which condemns organized religion while praising sex and love as a replacement—kicks off his self-titled debut on an appropriately strident note.