Album Review: Hozier, 'Hozier'

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hozier self-titled album
Hozier's self-titled album (© 2014 Columbia Records.)

Is Andrew Hozier-Byrne a YouTube sensation? No. I mean, yes … but no.

It's true that his video for "Take Me to Church" garnered more than 230,000 views within the first week of its posting and is reaching well past 10 million views today. And it's also true that this sort of impact may have helped to put Hozier on the map; he was whisked onto radio charts and into the ears (and hearts) of tastemakers everywhere shortly thereafter.

However, I hesitate to give YouTube too much credit in this phenomenal rise to success, as this video is simply the byproduct of something much, much larger. Hozier's music is that of substance. He taps directly into the reality surrounding issues that matter, wraps it up in poignant lyrics and delivers it in the smoothest sonic package you can imagine.

Hozier deftly moves from topic to topic in his debut album and casts light on problems, both personal and public, that are universally shared. The single, "Take Me to Church" grapples (very directly) with gay rights, while "To Be Alone" pleads for an antidote to rape culture. Less politically charged songs, like "It Will Come Back" and "Like Real People Do" address the exciting, yet terrifying, range of emotion that inevitably accompanies relationships. Not all songs are so serious, though; "Someone New" and "Jackie and Wilson" contrast nicely, both in subject and sound, from the rest of the album.

The tone of the album ebbs and flows smoothly, which undoubtedly was a deliberate move. Hozier's vocals swell to the forefront during the most passionate moments, gently pushing his musical accompaniment to the back seat. The musical influences that come into play for Hozier are easily discernible. Hints of blues, soul, folk, and rock mesh together nicely to create a varied, yet coherent texture. His backing band — equipped with strings, vocalists, and even the occasional handclap--fills out the album with familiar, rootsy sounds.

Even when the virality of Hozier's music video eventually dwindles, this album will still matter. He understands how to blend sharp-tongued lyrics seamlessly into a captivating soundscape, be it understated or anthemic. The hooks will remain in your ears and the lyrics on your mind. Hozier is a substantial yet incredibly accessible album.

What do you think of the album? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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