>> Hozier is finally back after a booming debut and it turns out five years for some new music was well worth the wait.
The album starts with the previously released single "Nina Cried Power" with the iconic Mavis Staples at Hozier’s side. If there is a better way to start an album that shows Hozier’s irreverence for the top 40 fame that “Take Me to Church” brought him then the Devil herself may be holding on to it. It’s the perfect way to show the world that a single can’t shape the way that the Irish born singer sees and relates to the world. From there the album moves into similar sounding but more mature songs than his debut album. "No Plan" has a driving beat and is so melodic and catchy that it could cause you to play the song again before moving to the next track on the album. Much like the first album, Hozier is credited with production credits on every track. Possibly the best track on the album, "Shrike," has some of the best lyrics, wrapped around what could be some insight to his most famous track “Take Me to Church” when he sings “I couldn't utter my love when it counted /Ah, but I'm singing like a bird, 'bout it now.” He goes on to sing “love when everyone is a shrike to your sharp and glorious thorn." Hozier is just a simple songbird ready to tell the truth, no matter what the consequences could be by other vicious, carnivorous passerine birds.
The album is laced with a top 40 pop sound but it could be merely coincidental since Hozier is the main producer for the album. If Max Martin was behind the board people would be screaming from the rooftops that the album is a sellout. The ambient sound and haunting nature of the first album is prevalent throughout, enough so that without hearing his voice one could pin that this is an effort by Hozier. Fear that the progression of songwriting and developing intricacies of a sophomore musician would be devoured by the same “sound” must not have been an issue. The possibility that the same church choir blues organ sound would be familiar enough for the same people who liked his unlikely pop hit to listen again is unmistakable. One does not have to turn the car around to simply change lanes.
If you liked the first album then you will certainly feel the same way about this one. The songwriting is similar if even slightly better and the lyrics are just as earthy and honest. There are some catchy songs and some thought-provoking lines and all in all it’s a good listen all the way through. That being said if you did not like the first album then don’t bother because there aren’t enough differences on this one to turn the non-believer into a rabid or even casual fan. More of the same is not a bad thing in this situation and in general the second album shows that Hozier's sound is working and that he is hopefully ready for more. << 4.0/5