By: Alex Florescu

He might just be fresh off dropping his first album, but Andrew Hozier-Bryne is definitely not new to the music scene – and it shows. His self-titled album Hozier includes his hit song “Take Me To Church,” which caused an uproar for his powerful and public stance against homophobia. The rest of his album keeps this momentum going, with track after track of gritty riffs, smooth twangs and lyrics that could keep you up at night.

Hozier balances on the line where the Black Keys’ bluesy electrics meet Tom Odell’s mournful ballads, all underlined with leather-clad edge. He isn’t afraid to go to dark places, only to have his songs pick back up again like in “Someone New,” a swinging, orchestral track that is among the more upbeat songs on his album.

Many of the tracks are stripped down to a guitar, crisp drum rolls and soulful chapel choir harmonies. Layered together, these create an organic, acoustic background melody to underlie his piercing, bluesy wails in “From Eden” and raspy lupine howls in “To Be Alone.” “From Eden” features what are Hozier’s most impressive vocals to date, displaying his incredible range, vocal control and unmistakably unique bluesy twang.

“Like Real People Do” has such a sweet melody and smooth transitions that you are swept up in the tide, only to realize that the haunting lines: “why were you digging/what did you bury/ before the hands pulled me from the earth” are a chilling metaphor for starting new relationships. “Sedated” takes on more of a quick tempo R&B, rock blend that has the cringe-worthy catchiness of pop without becoming too clichéd. His other track “Jackie and Wilson” blends Arctic Monkey-esque electric guitar riffs with jazz to create one of the bluesiest tracks on the album, and references R&B and soul legend Jackie Wilson.

In every one of his songs, Hozier makes it is hard to reconcile sound with meaning, creating dark, sorrowful tracks that you will want to replay over and over. The biggest struggle in listening to his album is trying to convince yourself that something so dark really can sound so good. “Cherry Wine” is no exception, topping off the list as an airy, acoustic take on dysfunctional relationships. As is “Work Song,” whose lyrics “when my time comes around/ lay me gently in the cold dark earth/ no grave can hold my body down/ I’ll crawl home to her” make it about as heartbreaking as a love song can get.

All in all, Hozier’s first album portrays such real and raw emotion that it simply cannot be ignored. Fans of Hozier will not be let down, and those who have never heard his name before should not hesitate before pressing that download button, grabbing a pair of headphones and plugging in.

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