Music News: Hozier talks about new album 'Wasteland, Baby!'

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Hozier performs in Austin, Texas, 2018.
Hozier performs in Austin, Texas, 2018. (SUZANNE CORDEIRO/AFP/Getty Images)
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"The world has changed so much in the last five, six years," says Hozier. His new music speaks to that upheaval.

The Irish singer-songwriter's second full-length, released last Friday, March 1, on Columbia Records, is called Wasteland, Baby! Accompanied by a cover painting that has the artist literally underwater, the title speaks to the record's themes of hope amidst global struggles.

"There's a few lyrical themes on the record, references throughout the album to the seas rising and some of those concerns," he said. "With regards to the cover, there's something peaceful and yielding to it. At the same time, the image of someone being in a room filling with water that they can't leave is sort of oppressing."

One detail in the cover — painted by Hozier's mother, the artist Raine Hozier-Byrne — has migrants in small boats. The album lands just weeks before Britain is scheduled to pull out of the European Union.

"It's a difficult time," Hozier says about Brexit. "It's a bit of a baffling thing to follow through with. However, from my point of view — and I think the Irish government has been consistent about this, and I think everyone on the island of Ireland is of the shared view — whatever happens, it cannot disrupt the peace process in Ireland."

Tracks like "Nina Cried Power" (featuring Mavis Staples) and "Almost (Sweet Music)" are full of references to American music legends like Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday.

"A lot of Irish musicians have always had a fascination and a deep love for the tradition of rock and roll, the tradition of blues music in particular," says Hozier. "My dad was a musician who played blues near-exclusively, and my first education in music was through his record collection."

This Sunday in upstate New York, Hozier's launching a U.S. tour. He's excited about taking these songs on the road.

"A lot of these songs on Wasteland, Baby! were written with the intention, these are going to be really fun live," he says. "I'm touring with an eight-piece band. Everyone on stage is a singer, everyone can play an instrument. There's a little mini-choir up there."

Dave Grohl lends a friend a throne

Dave Grohl has kindly lent his rock star leg injury throne to an injured friend. Matthew Ramsey of the band Old Dominion is currently on crutches after surgery he underwent in the wake of an on-stage fall last year. Ramsey says that people kept joking about borrowing the throne Grohl used on a 2015 Foo Fighters tour after he broke his leg, so finally Ramsey thought...why not ask? Grohl said yes, and the band posted a pic to Instagram with the caption, "First show post-surgery is going down with a little help from our friends." Now Grohl just has to be careful that stars don't start deliberately breaking legs just to use the throne. (Billboard)

R. Kelly gives angry interview

Facing criminal charges of sexual abuse, R. Kelly sat down with Gayle King for an emotional interview that aired Wednesday on CBS This Morning. Looking tearfully into the camera, he said, "I didn't do this stuff! This is not me!" At one point, King had to pause the interview so Kelly could regain his composure. More of the interview will air Thursday. On Instagram, one of the women he's charged with abusing says that she saw "a man that needs help," adding "for decades he's been around enablers who never told him the truth." (New York Times)

Radio stations pull Michael Jackson music

Meanwhile, the late Michael Jackson is also facing fallout from alleged abuse. Radio networks in Canada and New Zealand have confirmed removing Jackson's music from their playlists as viewers real from the explicit and, to many viewers, convincing documentary Leaving Neverland, about two men who say Jackson sexually molested them when they were boys.

The content director of one of the New Zealand radio networks pulling Jackson's music say they're not rendering judgment on Jackson, they're responding to listeners' feelings. He said in an interview, "We're just merely trying to make sure that our radio stations are going to play the music that people want to hear." (New York times)

"Shallow" hits the top of the charts

"Shallow," the Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper duet from A Star Is Born, is the number one song in the country right now according to Billboard. As Billboard notes, it's an unusual chart-topper for 2019, since most songs that top the chart get massive amounts of streams without necessarily making a cultural splash outside the music world. The closest thing, writes the industry publication's Andrew Unterberger, might be when a song peaks due to a viral challenge like Rae Sremmurd's "Black Beatles" with the mannequin challenge.

Looking back, it used to be more common for prominent placement in a movie or TV show to send a song to the top of the charts. Did you know that the Chariots of Fire theme hit number one? Then there were the songs of mourning. "See You Again," the Charlie Puth an Wiz Khalifa song that hit number one in the wake of Fast and Furious star Paul Walker, followed in the tradition of songs like Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997" for Princess Diana, and of course, from that same year, Puff Daddy's tribute to the Notorious B.I.G., "I'll Be Missing You."

Viral clip: Other Music record store documentary gets a teaser

Just a couple weeks after Record Store Day on April 13, the Tribeca Film Festival will feature the premiere of a new documentary about Other Music. During its two-decade run in the East Village, Other Music became one of the last great tastemaking retail hubs in the record world. When it closed in 2016, a tribute concert featured performances by artists including Yoko Ono, Yo La Tengo, and Sharon Van Etten. (Billboard)

The documentary filmmakers shared clips from the film in a video accompanying a new Kickstarter campaign seeking funding to complete the project. I remember shopping at Other Music's short-lived Harvard Square branch when I was in grad school: you'd walk in and there would be two categories, "in" and "out." You'd pick "in" if you wanted something relatively conventional, like Bonnie "Prince" Billy. You'd pick "out" if you wanted something that sounded more like the free jazz being played in a farewell brass parade featured in the documentary trailer.


Audio sampled in podcast
Jahzzar: "Comedie" (CC BY 4.0)
BoxCat Games: "Against The Wall" (CC BY 3.0)
Diddy feat. Faith Evans and 112: "I'll Be Missing You"
Hozier: "Movement"
Hozier: "Nina Cried Power"


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