Monday 18 December 2017

Hozier album review: 'There's ample evidence that much of the hype is justified'

Hozier's album cover.
Hozier's album cover.
John Meagher

John Meagher

Hozier - Hozier. The most hyped Irish singer of the past few years finally releases his debut album. Everyone from Taylor Swift to Fearne Cotton has been rhapsodising about young Andrew Hozier-Byrne from Bray, Co Wicklow, in recent times. He certainly has a lot to live up to.

3.5 stars

Happily for fans of a man whose name is redolent of a minor character in the Ross O’Carroll-Kelly series, there’s plenty to appreciate here. And there’s ample evidence that much of the hype is justified.

The album opens with Hozier’s breakthrough song, ‘Take Me to Church’, which showcases his remarkable, soulful vocals in quietly spectacular fashion. A genuine viral sensation – the YouTube video is near nine million views – it has been a victim of its success: there’s only so much of a good thing one can be exposed to. But listen to it in the context of this album and it stands up really well.

That voice is Hozier’s USP, and it sounds pretty special throughout the album. Dublin producer Rob Kirwan sensibly makes it the star of the show and even when the arrangements feel a little flat you find yourself being pulled in by the quality of the vocals.

Much of what’s special about this Wicklow man centres on ‘Jackie and Wilson’ – a beautifully produced, radio-friendly offering that offers an homage to one of Hozier’s soul heroes, Jackie Wilson. “We’ll name our children Jackie and Wilson,” he sings, on the playful, rocking tune, “and raise them on rhythm ‘n’ blues.”

Wilson, incidentally, was famed for the intensity of his live performances and suffered a heart attack through one concert in 1975. He never recovered and died nine years later.

The album starts off very well and contains at least half-a-dozen excellent tracks. But it but does veer off quite noticeably towards the end. Rather than 13 tracks and 53 minutes, he might have had a greater impact with 10 songs over 40 minutes.

Despite such reservations, Hozier is someone who looks destined to have an intriguing career ahead of him.

Key tracks: ‘Take Me to Church’; ‘Jackie and Wilson’; ‘Sedated’

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