Release Date: Mar 1, 2019
Record label: Sony Music
The Lowdown: Hozier's self-titled debut proved to be an incredible success. Climbing to high positions across charts and going platinum several times over, the record set the Irish singer-songwriter forward on a promising career. Five years later, he returns with his second release, Wasteland, Baby!. While the record isn’t overflowing with technical innovations, Wasteland, Baby! still proves to be a splendid collection of music that will inspire one to smile and dance.
Hozier's great trick is how he hangs suspended between past and present, drawing upon old forms without sounding traditional. This gift is what fueled "Take Me to Church," a bit of protest neo-gospel that became an unexpected international blockbuster in 2014 -- a success so great, the Irish singer/songwriter was in no need to hurry up with a sequel. He certainly took his time to release Wasteland, Baby!, a sophomore set delivered nearly a half-decade after his debut.
Like a desperate magician guessing card after card until he arrives at the one in your hand, Andrew Hozier-Byrne spends much of his second album stumbling through a simple trick. To kick off his first full-length in five years, the platinum-selling Irish singer-songwriter celebrates the legends who spoke truth to power, as he shouts out a veritable VH1 marathon's worth of greats: Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, John Lennon, James Brown, Joni Mitchell, Mavis Staples, Patti Smith, Marvin Gaye, and more are name-checked during the opening song "Nina Cried Power." The message is simple. All of these people made a difference, and, whoever you are, wherever you are, at least one of them probably means something to you.
T he best song (No Plan) on Hozier's second album proclaims: "There's no plan, there's no kingdom to come/ But I'll be your man if you've got love to get done." It's a fair summary of the Irish singer-songwriter's core message: everything's a bit screwed, your faiths may be pointless, but you can rely on me and my endless, occasionally cliched sincerity. Wasteland, Baby! follows the template of Hozier's breakthrough single, Take Me to Church, by surrounding his fabulous cathedral of a voice with awed, gospelly choral backing, pulpit-rattling percussion, devilish, bluesy organ or guitar, and an always intelligent use of space in the production. It's a lovely sound, but the songwriting veers more towards the serviceable than the inspired.