Andrew Hozier-Byrne is an ethereal Irish singer-songwriter who performs under the mononym Hozier. In Greek mythology, a satyr is a male nature spirit known for their love for music, dancing and sex; the two figures might just be one and the same.
Hozier’s sophomore album Wasteland, Baby! is a thoughtful examination of intense themes that also proves to be an uncanny conduit for his satyr-esque debauchery.
The folksy singer crept into the international music scene with his self-titled debut album in 2014, which featured the unlikely hit “Take Me to Church.” The unconventional hit rocketed the singer to pop-stardom, to which the young artist responded by retreating from the limelight for the next half a decade.
His reclusive side provided a solid career move, as Wasteland, Baby!, which dropped on Friday March 1, seemed to lack the high expectations that tend to beset new artists’ anticipated follow-ups.
Hozier projects the energy of a troubadour and his sophomore album has the same aura as a knotted willow tree. The album’s general theme is about finding love, even when the world seems to be wasting away around you.
The collection of 14 songs establishes a morose aural landscape through which optimistic lyrics pervade; Hozier told NPR, “What [I’m] still trying to find in the worst-case scenario the warm, still-beating heart of humanity.” It’s evident that the singer seeks this positivity in physical pleasures as the lyrics toy with the duality of contemporary political darkness and physical connection and love— the relationship between the personal and the political is a topic particularly of note.
Musically, “Take Me to Church” has had a palpable influence on the artist’s sound and it can be heard all throughout his new album, particularly in one of Wasteland, Baby!’s best tracks, “No Plan.” The song is a guitar-fueled gospel anthem featuring a catchy, bluesy chorus about how the universe will eventually fade out and die.
Yet the lyrics find a joyous liberation in this acceptance as Hozier sings, “There’s no plan, there’s no race to be run/The harder the rain, honey, the sweeter the sun.” Another song clearly influenced by the artist’s past hit is “Almost (Sweet Music),” a jazzy, feel-good song that pays homage to jazz greats and music’s wider healing power.
The album’s strongest moments, however, come during the unworldly artist’s quieter, more introspective tracks. “Shrike” is a lilting lamentation of a lost love, where Hozier sings in a pronounced Irish Brogue accompanied by a melancholic, minimalistic guitar; “I couldn’t utter my love when it counted/Ah, but I’m singing like a bird ‘bout it now.”
The album’s title track is similarly quiet and contemplative, yet its lyrics strike a decidedly more positive tone. While an apocalyptic event is used as a metaphor for falling in love, Hozier implores that it’s “not an end, but the start of all things that are left to do.” It serves as a perfect encapsulation of the duality that permeates the album.
Wasteland, Baby! proves an admirable follow-up to the transcendent singer’s strong debut outing. The album shows maturity in its tackling of heady topics but certainly doesn’t shy from having some fun along the way.