Album Review: Hozier – From Eden EP

By on Friday, 2nd May 2014 at 12:00 pm
 

Hozier 'From Eden' EPIrish singer/songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne, better known simply as Hozier, has just released a new EP to follow up on his hit single ‘Take Me To Church’. This EP ‘From Eden’ is a collection of four darkly beautiful, blues-infused tracks that expand upon his previous ‘Take Me to Church’ EP release and prove that Hozier is most definitely not an industry-manufactured, one-hit-wonder.

Recorded in Hozier’s own home attic with production assistance from Dublin-based producer Rob Kirwan, ‘From Eden’ opens with the bright, upbeat title track, which continues the religious/romantic analogy of ‘Take Me to Church’. The smooth r&b feel in the verses comes as a surprise, but it’s a pleasant one, especially in contrast to the heavier tracks following it. Here, Hozier displays a uniquely classical facet of his songwriting, text painting a serpentine guitar line against the song’s chorus, “Idealism sits in prison, chivalry fell on its sword / Innocence died screaming, honey, I should know / I slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door”.

While Hozier plays all the instrumental parts on the EP, it’s his vocal delivery that in the end makes the strongest impression. The meter of his lyrics is often uneven, the imagery sharply graphic in places, but his smooth, perfectly tempered vocals bring beauty to even the more grotesque moments, such as the chorus to ‘Work Song’: “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”. And only in the richly sensual gospel context of this song could he get away with a lyric like, “My baby’s sweet as can be / She give me toothaches just from kissing me”.

‘Arsonist’s Lullaby’ reveals yet another metaphor for romantic love, this time comparing its passion to the intensity of fire, as in the chorus, “All you have is your fire and a place in me to reach / Don’t you ever tame your demons, but always keep them on a leash”. It may not be a particularly original analogy, but Hozier addresses it in a distinctively musical way, setting it to a dark blues rock in the vein of the Black Keys, with a forcefully insistent rhythm and ominous backing vocals behind its low, growling guitars.

The EP closes with a live version of ‘To Be Alone’, which we featured as a Live Gig Video here. The song opens with a wistful blues guitar solo, leading into the brooding despair of the first verse. In contrast to that heavy rumination, the chorus evokes pure physicality: “You don’t know what hell you put me through / To have someone kiss the skin that crawls from you / To feel your weight in arms I never use / It’s the god that heroin prays to”. Those lines are followed by a visceral falsetto wail that will haunt your mind long after the song ends.

The cerebral yet emotionally charged imagery in Hozier’s lyrics is provocative on its own, but his talent for conveying those same ideas in sound is unparalleled among current songwriters. I haven’t heard this range of expressive songwriting ability since studying opera and art song at university; Hozier’s songs are reminiscent in my mind of Gustav Mahler and Robert Schumann. While his American gospel, r&b and rock influences are clearly apparent, it’s the hint of classical aesthetics, employed without pretention, that sets him apart and gives him room to grow as an artist. Even if intensive music analysis isn’t your thing, Hozier’s raw emotionality and sensual blues style is sure to strike a chord.

8.5/10

‘From Eden’ is available now on Rubyworks. Hozier is scheduled to appear at the Longitude Festival in Dublin in July and at the Reading and Leeds Festival in August.

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3 Responses

4:22 pm
8th September 2014

“Take Me to Church” was such a good sound to the summer. I’m so excited to hear his new album next month. I’ve just been watching “Jackie and Wilson” on repeat for the past week, haha. http://www.npr.org/event/music/345044268/hozier-jackie-and-wilson%20/

5:09 am
20th April 2016

I always thought that Arsonist’s Lullaby was a direct reference to antisocial personality disorder, (he directly speaks about not being able to keep relationships and not trusting people, and the “keep your demons on a leash” thing is referencing being able to hurt someone at will,) not romance. I know that Hozier’s influence is primarily romance, relationships, and sex, but he also has a few darker songs unrelated to those topics (like In the Woods Somewhere,) and I’ve always thought that Arsonist’s Lullaby was one of them.

7:43 am
18th November 2016

Sorry, nothing in the lyrics suggest Arsonist’s Lullaby is about romantic love. Arsonist’s Lullaby is about his personal demon: fire, which has fascinated him since he was a child. He knows it will always be with him, threatening to control him, but as he grows older, he learns to contain it and use it to inspire him. He realizes that others may have personal demons (maybe rage or depression). He advices not to tame your demons but use them cautiously.

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