FUV's New Dig: Hozier
Columbia / Rubyworks Records
Andrew Hozier-Byrne, who performs as Hozier, is a 24-year-old Irish singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Bray, County Wicklow. Growing up, he was drawn to his father's extensive music collection, which leaned heavily on blues and R&B — especially Chicago blues, Texas blues and the catalogs of Chess and Motown Records. He felt especially empowered by Delta blues, which you can hear in his singing style today. Later on, his scope widened as he discovered jazz and grew fond of artists as diverse as Tom Waits and Pink Floyd.
Hozier was a member of the Irish choral group Anuna from late 2009 until the end of 2012, appearing on 2012's Illumination. (That album's opening song, "La Chanson De Mardi Gras," features Andrew on lead vocals.) Upon going solo, he adopted the stage moniker Hozier, and after issuing two 4-song digital EPs, 2013's Take Me To Church and this year's From Eden EP, Hozier has now released his first full-length album.
Hozier blends material from his two EPs with some newer songs. His powerful, haunting voice is rich with emotion; he pours every ounce of his soul into each word he sings.
His thoughtful lyrics are brimming with vivid imagery. He tackles themes like physical and spiritual love, and doesn't back away from expressing opinions about matters relevant to him — like criticizing the teachings of organized religion in "Take Me To Church." Hozier has said that his lyrics are the most important part of his songs, and he works hard at making sure they express exactly what he feels and wants to say.
As for the sound: The music is drenched in a holy echo, giving Hozier's songs a depth and spirituality that sounds as if they he's performing in an empty church. Highlights beyond "Take Me To Church": The lowdown, grungy blues of "To Be Alone"; the gospel stomp of "Angel Of Small Death And The Codeine Scene"; and the slow, meditative gospel spiritual "Work Song". "Like Real People Do" draws on those old Delta blues, but feels equally inspired by contemporaries like Fleet Foxes and Lord Huron.
Until now, we've only had a hint about who this Irish artist with the strange name is. With the arrival of this first album, we have the full picture. He is Hozier.