Five years after his self-titled debut captured the hearts and minds of Irish and international audiences alike – Andrew Byrne returns as Hozier on his second full-length album, the highly anticipated Wasteland, Baby!. The songwriter’s second LP was preceded in September with the Nina Cried Power EP, a diverse 4 track preview that hinted at a more drastic shift in tone for Byrne’s sophomore outing. However, by comparison, Wasteland, Baby! is a relatively tame affair, featuring a subtler change in direction for the Irishman.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the results on display here are mixed as Byrne trades the electric, effortlessly catchy blues-rock energy of Hozier for a gospel-infused, choir-backed sound on Wasteland, which follow the template of the songwriter’s breakout hit Take Me To Church almost to a fault. On the other hand, the tracks that employ a hypnotic folk approach are certainly Wasteland’s best moments and provide a stellar reminder of Hozier’s undoubted power when at his best, exemplified by the likes of Shrike and Movement – two intimate standouts.
Ultimately, Wasteland, Baby! won’t win any new followers and certainly doesn’t come close Hozier’s tremendous debut, but there are enough moments of beauty here to remind audiences why they started listening in the first place and satisfy die-hard fans for now.
Words: Andrew Lambert
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