“My lover’s got humor / She’s the giggle at a funeral,” are the opening lines of Hozier’s hit song, “Take Me to Church,” the first song on his eponymous debut album coming out on Sep. 22. The combination of whimsical lyrics composed with a melancholic undertone is shaping up to be Hozier’s musical aesthetic. This unexpected convergence of themes even has New York Magazine “playing [Hozier] over and over.”
Andrew Hozier-Byrne, known as Hozier, is an Irish-born singer-songwriter who broke into the international music scene in 2013, with the release of “Take Me to Church.” The powerful yet somber song was accompanied by an even more memorable music video that protested the institutionalized anti-gay sentiment in Russia. Over the last year, the video has garnered over eight million views as Hozier’s fan base has spilled over Ireland’s borders onto an international stage.
Because seven of the 15 tracks in his debut album have already been released in two different EPs, Hozier has provided a blueprint of sorts for the songs to come. But he has also given us a glimpse into some of his new tracks through YouTube or other recording sessions, and the result is not as predictable as one might think. Notable is the third track, “Jackie and Wilson,” which he recorded for a National Public Radio segment earlier this month. “No better version of me I can pretend to be tonight,” he sings accompanied by drums, keyboard, electric guitar and bass. But it is the introduction of two soprano background singers on the chorus that adds a brighter note to the track, deviating from the darker sound we’ve come to expect.
Earlier this summer, Hozier also released a live recording and video for the seventh track entitled “In a Week.” Unlike the more dynamic and controversial video for “Take Me to Church” he keeps it clean and simple for “In a Week,” reflecting the nature of the song itself. This song echoes the more demure tone of Hozier’s previous work, but the addition of another Irish singer, Karen Cowley, softens his moodier vocals. In the video you simply see the silhouettes of Cowley and Hozier as they serenade a single microphone. While the tune of the song remains acoustic and serene, they sing about a couple dying together, crooning “they’ll find us in a week / when the buzzards get loud … I’d be home with you.” The juxtaposition of the tune and the lyrics is surprising, but it is this unexpectedness that has caused audiences to gravitate toward Hozier.
His upcoming tour through Europe and the United States will run through November, and many of the concerts have already sold out. He has received praise from acts like Stephen Fry and OneRepublic. And just as recently as this August, Taylor Swift and Victoria Secret model Lily Aldridge exchanged tweets about their love for the new artist.
Hozier’s fame so far has been slow burning, but it’s been steady. From the heavy drumbeat on “Sedated” to the strong base line on “It Will Come Back,” it’s clear that Hozier is playing with many familiar tactics on the new album. The more intriguing question, then, is what he’ll create next.
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