Twenty-four-year-old Irish singer-songwriter Hozier arguably could have dug himself into a premature one-hit wonder grave long before his eponymous first album came out on Oct. 7. His single “Take Me to Church” was released Sept. 13, 2013 and its accompanying music video came out less than two weeks later, quickly going viral. Shot in grayscale, the video follows the romance of two men until one gets brutally attacked by homophobic assailants as the haunting lyrics, “Only then I am human/ Only then I am clean,” come echoing in from the background.
With the sudden widespread success of the single, anticipation for Hozier’s newest album was high—almost as high as expectations were for the artist to bring something new to the table. In this latest release, Hozier exceeded expectations. Despite the heavy-handed romantic metaphors and simplistic guitar chords, Hozier’s talent as a singer and the overall synchronization of each individual track allow for a strong release that can stand apart from “Take Me to Church.”
The clear highlight is “Jackie and Wilson,” a classic electro-blues song that takes full advantage of Hozier’s vocals, particularly in the chorus—the catchiest on the album. Other standouts are “Someone New” and “Like Real People Do,” both of which are tracks that, on the surface, seem like superficial folksy love ballads, until a closer examination of the lyrics reveals the darker themes of heartache and trust issues that permeate through the album.
The disappointment of the album is Hozier’s unwillingness to take full advantage of his vocal potential. Half of what made “Take Me to Church” so popular was its powerhouse chorus, with Hozier belting out lines with a strong rock feeling that carried the song as a whole. Overall, this album’s true strength is in moving beyond the potential post-viral artistic collapse and showing that Hozier has lasting talent. Hopefully in the future, he steps out of his comfort zone to show us all what he’s truly capable of.