Hozier Finds Hope Amidst Heartbreak on Wasteland, Baby!
By Grace Lemon
Almost five years since the self-titled debut album that skyrocketed him to fame, Hozier has finally made his grand return with Wasteland, Baby!. Over the span of 14 evocative tracks, the soulful indie rocker captures a broad emotional spectrum, getting at the raw soul of human hardship, whether it be filled with despairing heartache or pure joy.
In this album, tracks like “Shrike” and “Sunlight” carry out the thread of agony over failed romance initially presented in his debut. Hozier is unafraid to face his experience with heartbreak and invites listeners to share in his sense of euphoric pain. The mellow acoustic guitar of “Shrike” (live version sent straight from God found here) blends beautifully with Hozier’s soft, anguished vocals, allowing his raspy Irish accent to shine through. In this track, he dwells on lost love, lamenting his own failure to express his true feelings before it was too late. “Sunlight” sounds like it is powered by a divine force, the repetitive lyrics propelling the track into cathartic release. The passion behind Hozier’s strong vocals and the background chorus paired with the constant pounding of drums establish a worship-like quality which emphasizes the unhealthy level of devotion Hozier feels toward his lover.
Hozier turns momentarily from romantic love with the tracks “Nina Cried Power” and “To Noise Making (Sing),” turning his focus instead to the power of music itself. “Nina Cried Power” is an ode to musicians who are unafraid to use their music as a form of protest, honoring singers including Nina Simone and John Lennon. This is one of several political songs on the album, and Hozier uses it not only to thank those in the past, but also to urge those in the present to rise to their voice’s full potential. “To Noise Making (Sing)” is the most upbeat and folky track of the album, the music powered by some funky clapping. This uplifting song expresses the importance of being carefree and allowing oneself to “sing just for the fuck of it.” Its simple catchiness gives listeners the perfect opportunity to take the song’s advice, serving as a breath of fresh air away from the album’s other darker, heavier material.
The final track is the title track, and Hozier closes the album by crafting a metaphorical comparison between love and the apocalypse. Despite being thematically ominous and tackling the intense topics of climate change and the end of the world as we know it, Hozier transmits an undertone of hope through the inclusion of the lyric, “Not an end, but the start of all things that are left to do.” Instead of painting a grim picture of the end times, Hozier turns it into the opportunity for a new beginning. The vocals are haunting and shaky, allowing Hozier to transport his listeners to a post-apocalyptic world in which love is the sole survivor on an ashen Earth. When the vocal line is layered over the stripped-down, dream-like quality of the music, it truly does feel like this is the case. The track ends eerily with the whispered lyric “That’s it,” symbolizing both the end of the album and the desperate reminder that we have nothing but love to grab a hold of.
Hozier has always handed us love in all of its cruel and complex forms. However, this album stands out in its brief escapes from the dark depths of sorrow to focus on the light that love and music can provide. So although Hozier has not strayed far from his talents in creating something beautiful out of heartbreak, Wasteland, Baby! demonstrates that he is capable of creating something equally stunning out of hope.