Hozier - Wasteland, Baby!
This record was always going to be a tough one for Hozier. Following his extremely successful self-titled debut Hozier He had a few directions He could go with this. First He could abandon the sound of Hozier completely in search of greener more modern pastures. It would make sense with the bands He was contemporaries with like Arcade Fire and Father John Misty faltering as of late. Popular music is different than it was in 2014. The second option and the one Hozier has chosen here is to stay the course. His music really hasn't progressed since 2014, evidenced by his lack of output in the past five years. He all but vanished from festival stages and instead went dark to craft this new record. In this current era alt-folk and alt-soul have suffered major blows. If we go back 6-8 years this sound was at the height of it's powers being played on every radio station with critics heaping mountains of praise. Today however it couldn't feel more dated, pedestrian and odd. However Hozier doesn't feel tied to those more negative aspects of the genre. He doesn't let songs play out over 10 minutes, or indulge his more "artistic" tenancies and instead is focused on upbeat soul songs that don't feel like throwbacks. A lot of times soul music can be so dialed in that it sounds no different than the 50 years of music that has come before it. It makes sense, how can we make something better than what the greats have already done? But, that is the point, we have to keep trying if we ever want to actually do it.
This record feels like a nice addition to his last, rather than something totally new. It gives Hozier the opportunity to sort of revel in his past success while still creating songs that people will want to sing. The songs lyrically aren't all that inventive and we don't get a real picture of just who Hozier is. That also doesn't feel like the point here. Sure He could have tried to make you cry with each and every track but then this album wouldn't be so nimble and light. Hozier wisely gives the fans what they wanted rather than what He thought they wanted. It's a dangerous game but one that Hozier actually wins with this record. I was ready for this thing to be totally hollow and miss every kind of mark, but that never happens. This album is far more solid than it had to be, and a lot more fun than anyone could have expected. If you are waiting to be blown away by a new invetive spirit, you won't find that here, but if you are looking for solid soulful music than Wasteland, Baby! has a ton to offer.
7.8 out of 10