By Mags Blackburn
It was awhile after ‘Take Me To Church’ had blown up here in Ireland with that video by FeelGoodLost that I was watching The Michael McIntire Show. Michael was chatting with his audience and stumbled across an Irish lad who was living in London. He asked for the guys phone to see what music he was listening to and it was Hozier’s ‘Take Me To Church’. At this point poor Michael McIntire had no idea who Hozier was and proceeded to make a skit out of the song title. I’m sure he now knows who Hozier is and that episode will probably never be repeated.
I bring this up not to embarrass Mr McIntire but to demonstrate that for awhile there Hozier was little known outside of Ireland. In fact, he blew up so quickly the world had to play catch up on this wonderfully soulful, lyrically sophisticated young man. That must seem like such a long time ago now for Andrew Hozier-Byrne after appearing on some of the most famous TV and Radio shows on both sides of the Atlantic. And he’s debut album was only released last week (September 19th)!
How did this happen? It didn’t happen overnight but a combination of finding the right musical collaboration and visual artistry ensured Hozier’s place in the world. Three singles in (‘Take Me To Church’, ‘From Eden’ and ‘Sedated’) and the world was panting to hear what an album by this guy would sound like. So what did we get?
We got a collection of songs demonstrating Hozier’s range of soul and blues with a rock edge. We have the anthems as witnessed at Electric Picnic. The use of a choir on a number of tracks brings some gospel to the party. There is the upbeat “Angel of Small Death & Codeine Scene” and “To Be Alone” that bring some good ole Southern Blues. However, it is the more sedate ‘In A Week’ featuring Karen Crowley (of Wyvern Lingo) that stands out for me. With a voice like that why crowd it and this macabre tale of love combined with Karen’s sultry vocals makes for stark listening.
It’s that voice fusing gravel and silk, shade and light, depth and falsetto that is the star here. That would almost be enough but Hozier isn’t satisfied to leave it at that. We have those lyrics, and they stick with you. “Something meaningful for main course// That’s a fine looking highhorse” (Take Me To Church) “They’ll find us in a week// When the cattle show fear” (In A Week) “Honey you’re familiar// Like my mirror years ago” (From Eden).
This is fine album let alone to be a debut album. There is a real sense of intimacy in it almost as if the man himself is in the room singing to you. The songs also translate great live as any of his gigs to date attest to. So where will the boy from Bray go next from here? It’s hard to imagine how he can top this but in the meantime he is showing us the way with a wide range of covers from Led Zeppelin, Artic Monkeys and Beyonce. Watch this space.