By Teresa Ugarte

Hozier’s long awaited second studio album, “Wasteland, Baby!” dropped on Friday, March 1, ending a nearly five-year gap between LPs. “Wasteland, Baby!” is worth the wait; chock full of sweet ballads, Irish folk, and dreamlike soul, it elevates Hozier’s sound in a delightful way.

“Wasteland, Baby!” moves away from the fantastical faerie folk of Hozier’s self-titled first album in favor of a more grounded folk and blues sound. It’s a much brighter album as well, the eerie and abstract darkness of “Hozier” replaced with a determined presence. Some songs are fighting the darkness, some surviving it, and some reveling in the chaos it brings.

It’s difficult to categorize “Wasteland, Baby!” in a genre. There are definite elements of folk, soul and gospel, but few of the songs fit neatly into those categories. “Shrike” would be a traditional Irish folk song if not for Hozier’s soulful voice. “Would That I” has a folky chorus and bridge, but has gospel-like verses and instrumentals. Hozier has created a sound that is almost entirely unique to his work.

The album begins with a tribute to the original singers of soul, “Nina Cries Power.”

Calling it “a thank you note to the spirit of protest” in a Billboard interview, Hozier said he wanted to pay tribute to the singers of social reform movements, referencing Nina Simone, James Brown, Joni Mitchell and Billie Holliday. Hozier also collaborated with legendary soul singer Mavis Brown, who sings alongside him on the track. Brown was also heavily involved with the writing and producing of the song.

Although the entire album is beautiful, a few songs especially stand out: “Almost (Sweet Music)” has a bouncy chorus that’s impossible to not sing along to; “Shrike” is a gorgeous return to Hozier’s Irish roots. “Movement” is “Wasteland, Baby!”’s “Take Me to Church”: a slow, sweeping flex of Hozier’s vocal and songwriting ability.

The album concludes with the titular song “Wasteland, Baby!” that distorts Hozier’s vocals in a way that almost makes it sound as if he’s underwater. It’s a strange and sweet love song that scales back Hozier’s usually powerful instrumentals to emphasize a few simple guitar chords and Hozier’s full, echoey vocals. It feels personal, delicate and vulnerable. “Not an end, but the start of all things that are left to do,” Hozier sings. “Wasteland, baby/I’m in love, I’m in love with you.”

Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Hozier’s Facebook page.

Teresa Ugarte is a freshman journalism and English major and can be reached at teugarte@terpmail.umd.edu.

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