About: 13 songs; 54 minutes
Choice: Deliberate Obfuscation
I heard it, but I couldn’t place it. It sounded like old Elton John – Madmen Across the Water and Captain Fantastic Elton John. Like it has a lot of people, Hozier’s chorus on Take Me to Church caught me. Before hearing that chorus on a commercial, I had never heard of this Irish fellow. I did some googling to track down that song, and then, I chose this as our album of the week. Good move, me!
That flash of Elton John doesn’t really show up beyond that first track. However, there are other influences throughout the album that he mines and makes his own. Dan agrees that what Hozier is doing is hard to categorize, but he too is captured by this musician’s range of talent. I might categorize what he does as blue-eyed soul, but he spreads himself widely over the 13 songs on the album. His lyrics are undertakings of imagery, and he says that he is inspired by writers like James Joyce. It can be dark. There are lots of graves dug, dirt, and bodies. One of my favorite songs, Jackie and Wilson, has a jaunty R&B vibe that at first blush seems like a sweet relationship ditty, but, oh, no. By the end of the song, it is clear there will be no children named Jackie and Wilson raised on rhythm and blues that will come out of that relationship.
In that same song he sings:
Cause with my mid-youth crisis all said and done/ I need to be youthfully felt ’cause, God, I never felt young
He is 24, but his nature seems older – a little weary, a little broken. Kind of your classic Irish fellow.
Interestingly, I read that though he grew up in Ireland with Irish-Catholic parents, he and his siblings were raised Quaker. The theme of justice versus injustice has obvious importance to him. It is most apparent in Take Me to Church which decries the wrongness of denying acceptance of love of all kinds. The video of the song is strong stuff.
The arrangements on each of the songs add to the strength of this album. He plays a sweet guitar, and he brings in background vocalists that can sound gospel choiry or folksy. There is a fullness to the songs that is really beautiful. Even the simple Cherry Wine is made complete with a background of bird song.
Listening to this album this week, more than most music I listen to, I wanted to look into the future and see what comes out of Hozier next. Obviously his career is now taking off. He played at SXSW, was the musical guest on SNL recently, and Taylor Swift tweeted a picture of herself at one of his concerts. What will fame do to his work? Will he pick a niche and go with it, or will he continue to explore like he seems to be doing now? I hope the latter.
I loved this album – wholeheartedly, and even though Dan may think that I wish for more of that Elton sound, I like it just the way it is!
Next Up: Time for Good Behavior by Weezer