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.
The Good: Wasteland, Baby! blends a variety of musical styles across its 14 tracks; this blend allows for a constant delivery of fresh instrumentation, all playing off the gentle quality of Hozier’s voice. “Nina Cried Power” contains a bluesy, gospel-like element that exudes brightness over a playful drumbeat and soothing guitar rhythm. The subtle key playing adds to the track’s upbeat, joyous quality, testifying to the emotional material to come. On “Almost (Sweet Music)”, it’s nearly impossible to deny the blissful energy rising off the instrumentation and Hozier’s voice. The clapping beat coasts to a playful rhythm, the tempo rising as the guitar lets loose radiant tones. Blending with the vocals, the song comes together to present an enchanting harmony.
The guitar of “No Plan” offers an electric fuzz, emitting a sultry tone. Hozier’s voice lingers over a seductive beat and light guitar notes, providing a warm and relaxing presence. “To Noise Making (Sing)” sees Hozier’s vocals taking more of the lead, the instrumentals taking a step back to allow the words extra room to stand out. The self-titled track offers a relaxing guitar rhythm that trickles underneath the dreamy echo of Hozier’s words. The loving tones of the song provide a beautiful atmosphere that will lead listeners to a place of joy and serenity.
It is delightful to hear how the vocals and instrumentals work off one another, intensifying a track’s emotional weight. For example, in “Almost (Sweet Music)”, Hozier’s voice rises off the melody; not only does this provide more of a weight to his voice, but it also adds a warmth to the material’s playful energy. As Hozier pays tribute to a variety of jazz and soul artists, the song creates this duality that is gentle while carrying bravado. In “Movement”, his cries extend off the piano playing, carrying forth a sensual intensity. This duality of emotion makes for the record’s most fascinating technical component.
[Listen: Kyle Meredith With… Hozier]
The Bad: While Wasteland, Baby! provides a great deal of quality, it isn’t that unique of a record. The material offers an abundance of upbeat songs, but it isn’t anything we haven’t heard from Hozier before. Beyond the album’s emotional elements and clean production, you won’t find anything that different that stands out compared to his previous LP.
The Verdict: Wasteland, Baby! plays out to a plethora of emotions; from quiet moments of personal reflection to upbeat swings beaming with love, Hozier offers fans music that is peaceful and charming. Even though Hozier doesn’t bring anything immensely innovative to the album, Wasteland, Baby! is still a delightful experience that radiates with feeling. From the blend of instrumentals to the enchanting use of Hozier’s voice, Wasteland, Baby! is an album that celebrates emotion and the wonder of music.
Essential Tracks: “Almost (Sweet Music)”, “Shrike”, and “Wasteland, Baby!”
Buy In: Pick up a copy of Wasteland, Baby! and other Hozier records on vinyl here.