Irish New Comer Hozier’s Debut Album Shows Maturity and Raw Talent

The opening notes of Hozier’s debut self-titled album ring dark and ominous. The line “My lover’s got humor, she’s the giggle at a funeral” gives a haunting impression of the artist’s content. It almost sounds like Elton John comes in on vocals for a minute with a smooth and concerned voice. It’s not Elton John — a reminder is necessary at times — but 24-year-old Andrew Hozier-Byrne’s unique voice that deserves its own recognition.

As “Take Me to Church” continues to introduce the album, memories of Russia’s intolerance for homosexuality come rushing back. The video for Hozier’s debut single paints a dark picture of a hate crime, a topic the singer spoke out passionately against. It is a bold statement for a freshman artist to speak on a controversial topic, but shows his integrity as a musician and as a person.

As the album progresses it is clear that Hozier has talent beyond his years. The shuffled bounce of the track “From Eden” gives the musician or music nerd a healthy satisfaction.  It is in the 5/4 time signature, but doesn’t feel choppy in the obnoxious “Prog-Rock Rush’’ sense of odd time. Hearing this type of rhythm and time in a blues-based song is a nice way to differ from the standard 4/4 count.

Love and death are a consistent theme on the album, most evident in the track “In a Week.”  The track is a love song with equally sweet and morbid subject matter. It’s about a couple in love longing for solitude from the world. They flee to the forest and kill themselves so they may remain together forever. The description of their bodies being eaten by the wildlife might be a bit much for some listeners, but it is poetic and offers a different look at a love story in a well-written song.

Drugs also make an appearance in the subject matter of this album. “The Angel of Small Death and The Codeine Scene” is an obvious one, but other songs make drug references. “To Be Alone” is definitely about sex, and refers to sex as “the god that heroin prays to.” More of this is found on the track “Sedated.” He talks to a companion saying “You and I nursing on a poison that never stung, our teeth and lungs are lined with the poison of it.” The effects of a drug are so immediate but have lingering stains and damages. This may also be a metaphor for love, but is also a testament to the dark material this album covers.

It’s not all sex, drugs, and violence though. There are a few songs that fall near the Pop category, while still keeping with Hozier’s overall sound and feel. “Jackie and Wilson” is one of the more fun songs on the album, creating a manifestation of a couple’s wild future. There is something so reassuring about a young artist holding the greats in such high regard to say a line like “We’ll name our children Jackie and Wilson, raise them on rhythm and blues.”

The album wraps up “Cherry Wine” which appeared on the 2013 “Take Me to Church’’ EP.  It is another love song, but has a more intimate feel than the others, being an acoustic and live version. It also highlights Hozier’s talent on a six string, with subtle technique that exemplifies what he can do without showing off. It closes a album that is more than just a good work; it is a brilliant debut that is just as sentimental as it is daring. Hozier has an amazing start to a career that seems to have a depth, honesty, and raw talent.

Hozier’s self-titled album will be released on October 7.