Wednesday 23 October 2019

Nina Cried Power EP review: 'Far from being weighed down by public expectation, Hozier has only become more joyously powerful'

4 stars

Hozier, Nina Cried Power
Hozier, Nina Cried Power
Irish musician Andrew Hozier-Byrne, known as Hozier Picture: Getty

Tanya Sweeney

That Andrew Hozier-Byrne can write a barnstorming, arms-around-the-world banger is by now a given. And so it continues with his first musical offering in three years, and four years after ‘Take Me To Church’ became the most streamed song in the world in 2014.

Rest assured, the usual hallmarks of Hozier’s music are all present and correct: a muscular production shot through with rich hues of gospel, an uplifting chorus packed with power and emotion, the immediately anthemic and bombastic bent. Far from being weighed down by public expectation, Hozier has only become more joyously powerful.

But much has happened in the world since Hozier’s last release, and in ‘Nina Cried Power’, it appears he has much to say about it.

Outside of the studio Hozier has shown serious political awareness of late, appearing at the Stand For Truth papal protest in Dublin last month and singing alongside other homelessness activists.

And in ‘Nina Cried Power’, with the help of soul legend Mavis Staples and blues master Booker T. Jones (and what sounds like a huge gospel choir), Hozier delivers a bracing, urgent song about political protest. Yet for all his undeniable horsepower, the lyrics are something of a curiosity: among those name-checked in the song are Joni Mitchell, John Lennon, Nina Simone, and James Brown.

Alas, doffing a cap to the greats does not a lighters-aloft hit make. Yet Hozier’s innate gift for creating a stone-cold earworm means that you’re likely to hear more of this song in the months to come. As in, a lot more.

Nina Cried Power can barely be described as a stylistic departure, yet elsewhere on the EP, different tones, gears and textures abound.

Fans of his debut, too, will be somewhat assured to find he hasn’t yet done away with the warm acoustic balladry.

‘NFWMB’ sees the Wicklow singer in much more tender and reflective form than in its title track. ‘Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)’ is an energetic slice of bluesy pop, though it fails to reach the dizzying heights of his more catchy, assured musical apexes.

‘Shrike’ offers the sort of woodsy, Bon Iver-tinged introspection that gives this EP plenty of different surfaces. And when a four-track can offer both sky-scraping highs and gentle, hushed moments, it’s safe to say that Hozier is doing something right. Better yet, it’s a harbinger of great things coming ahead.

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