By Carlie Vassos, March 8 2019 —
Hozier is back to delight our ears with his booming and effervescent voice on his first full-length album since 2014. Wasteland, Baby! promises listeners a soothing blend of musical styles across 14 tracks, incorporating a mix of blues and gospel elements among playful drumbeats and rhythmic guitar strums. Hozier describes the title Wasteland, Baby! as inspired by reading about nuclear war and the moving of the world’s doomsday clock closer to midnight. The singer-songwriter calls the album a “collection of love songs for the end of the world.”
Although the songs carry what Hozier describes as a “sense of doom and gloom,” there is an element of hope within the lyrics. Opening track “Nina Cried Power” was originally released as part of an EP of the same name last year, previewing the magnetic energy that embodies the album. Accompanied with the powerful vocals of blues and gospel singer Mavis Staples, the pair channel the raw energy and spirit of social activism and protest. In “Almost (Sweet Music),” the gentle instrumentation with Hozier’s voice lends the song an enchanting, danceable quality. The rising tempo with a relaxing guitar rhythm makes the track an album highlight.
It is a delight to hear the vocals and instrumentals work off one another in this album. The sunny “To Noise Making (Sing)” incorporates a variety of vocal and instrumental elements that flow with a happy buzz. The song harmoniously incorporates a multitude of instruments such as bells, snaps, claps, tambourines and shakers to play off the collection of voices. Despite being drawn in by the instrumentals, Hozier’s voice takes precedent, allowing the lyrics room to stand out.
On “As It Was,” Hozier’s voice rises off a darker melody, using the strums of the guitar combined with the low piano notes to add an emotional weight to the song. The slow and perfectly paced “Shrike” uses a serene folkish melody that beautifully showcases Hozier’s vocals. The lyrics of the song supplies metaphorical imagery that represents the frustrations and sadness of a lost relationship. The relaxing rhythm guitar rhythm that lies underneath the dreamy echo of his words makes the song an enjoyable listen.
While Wasteland, Baby! provides the listener with quality songs that soothe the soul, it arguably isn’t different from Hozier’s past work. Although Hozier doesn’t bring anything exceptionally innovative to the album, he offers music that will take you on an emotional journey, making for a soothing and contemplative listen.