Hozier’s second album Wasteland, Baby! comes after a long hiatus from his self-titled first, Hozier. His fans have grown a lot since then, but this album almost feels as though Hozier has regressed. There’s something lacking from this album that was so apparent in his other, from its soft melodies to the ones you belt along to. This album has less power in that it feels like Hozier is claiming, or seeking to claim, his place in the music industry.
The album is a little lost, a little childish, and dare it be said, basic at some points. But let’s be fair and start with the good. ‘Shrike’ is a much needed hiatus from the other songs up until that point. ‘Would That I’ harks back to ‘Like Real People Do’ pleasingly, if not a bit too closely, until the break in continuity that is genuinely refreshing. I can imagine belting this one out in the shower. ‘Sunlight’’s ease works, perhaps because it is not trying to sound like anything but a Hozier song. When he sticks to what he’s good at- a guitar, the juxtaposition of a soft voice with powerful vocals and deep lyrics – he shines like the sun.
‘To Noise Making (Sing)’ is unbearable. Hozier, we get it, you can sing. Please sing a better song. Speaking of singing, if you are going to feature Mavis Staples on a song, feature her more! It is a little disheartening that every time Staples begins to sing Hozier sings on top of her every time. The repetitiveness in so many of the songs, ‘Be’ in particular, feels easy, as if he realised he did not need to perfect his craft to the same standard as he did in his first album.
Hozier’s music is steamy, sexual, but in ‘Talk’ when he says “imagine being loved by me” followed by a borningly suggestive chorus and a bunch of “Heya’s” I really have no desire to imagine that. It feels too forced, too pop, too much like he’s realised his fame. No one wants a Hozier who knows his fame. We want a soft, pained voice with deep, dark lyrics and uncomplicated melodies that lift us up. The music, at least, does seem to be complex, varied, and, for the most part, not bad. Unfortunately the accompanying lyrics are for the most part uninspired. It’s hard to write songs, I’m sure, but is “That’s the kind of love/I’ve been dreaming of” the best Hozier can pull off? At least the title song ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ is good, but the title really does seem to describe the songs perfectly. A wasteland compared to Hozier’s previous genius, and way, way too many “baby”s.
Image: Austen Maddox via Flickr