Debut albums hold a lot of weight in a musician’s career. Sure, you have the chops to make an EP, but can you make a full length LP and keep our attention the entire time? After releasing a couple extended plays, Irish musician Andrew Hozier-Byrne (a.k.a. Hozier) is venturing into the full album territory with his self-titled debut album featuring hit singles such as “Take Me To Church” and “From Eden.” How does the self-title hold up? Hozier kicks off with the lead single “Take Me to Church,” a powerful gospel anthem that is clearly the pillar of the album. It’s driven by Hoizier’s vocals, singing about “deathless death” and “worship in the bedroom,” with verses being broken up by a heartbroken “amen” here and there. Following up a song like this is tough, but Hozier doesn’t miss a step with the next few tracks on the album. “Someone New” features a really fun and catchy chorus that exemplifies his blues chops, but still exemplifies Hozier’s impeccable lyrics in the verses (“There’s an art to life’s distractions / Somehow escape the burning way / The art of scraping through”).
After the first 5 songs, the energy takes a noticeable dip. After the track “Sedated” a listener will stop and think “that’s exactly how I feel right now.” That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. The warm tones on the slower tracks Hozier chooses are definitely sobering. There’s a fine line between a slow song and a boring song, and Hozier never crosses over to the boring side. As with most debut albums, the first handful of tracks are stellar and the rest lack that special something. Gone are the big choruses, replaced by more sentimental, folky/bluesy-sounding slow tracks like “Work Song” and “Like Real People Do.” The energy from the beginning of the album makes a brief comeback with “It Will Come Back” and “Foreigner’s God” before the album finishes off with the quietly beautiful “Cherry Wine.” Birds tweet in the background, painting a picture of Hozier serenading us underneath a tree in meadow of flowers. It’s a pleasant picture indeed. Overall, Hozier’s debut album is a winner, not really suffering from the dip in energy in the middle of the album, and definitely promises good things to come from this new artist.
RECOMMENDED TRACKS Take Me to Church, Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene, Jackie and Wilson, Someone New, Cherry Wine, From Eden
SOUNDS LIKE Vance Joy, George Ezra, Half Moon Run, a cozy fire on a cold winter night
You can hear this album and more indie jams during The Basement on KUMD 103.3 FM Duluth Public Radio — student run radio every night after 9! Stream online at KUMD.org. The Basement is Duluth’s Underground Radio.
BY DAN DODGE Statesman Music Correspondent