In Which I am Normal About the new Hozier Music


AP Newsroom

Hozier performs at the March 20 “Love Rising” concert in Nashville, Tennessee to benefit LGBTQ organizations.

Caspar Dowdy, Editor-in-chief

A rustle in the leaves. A shift in the tide. A slow-sinking sun. And from those thousand murmuring voices in the dark, one call arises:

Y’all. New Hozier album.

“Album” was a strong word, as it turned out — Eat Your Young is a three-song EP — yet when it was released on March 17, the Irish singer-songwriter’s birthday, it joined the 2022 single “Swan Upon Leda” as his most significant solo work since 2019 with the album Wasteland, Baby.

It took a while for me to actually get around to listening to it. I wanted to hear it all in one sitting, to give an honest attempt to digest the release as a whole. If I couldn’t commit to experiencing the single the way Hozier’s music is intended, in my opinion, to be listened to — humming madly through the trees while lost in unfamiliar woods — I could at least give the release half of a mostly-uninterrupted hour in between homework.

Crucially, I wanted to go in blind, before I could be swayed by any research or song clip posted to social media. That wish was ruined by the TikTok-ification of yet another app; Spotify, oddly enough, is the latest thing on my phone to pause whatever I’m doing to offer an uninvited snippet of suggested playlists and podcasts.

The short burst of sound I heard before scrolling away was enough to stir questions. It seemed pretty upbeat.

That alone wasn’t surprising, but it wasn’t entirely what I expected. Hozier has a history of drawing romance out of the cruelty of nature, and while his music remains playful, it’s often paired with subdued vocals and ominous guitar, a tongue-in-cheek gesture of somberness.

With a name like Eat Your Young, I had just expected the guy who declared “I have never known hunger like these insects that feast on me” in a decay-inspired love song to go a little harder with the melancholia.

After finally sitting down to listen, cursing the fact that my free trial of Spotify premium had expired a few days before as an ad for M&M’s weaseled its way in between songs, I saw that the humor-tinged tragedy I was used to hearing in Hozier’s work hadn’t gone away with time. And where “Swan Upon Leda” was a sincere and symphonic protest ballad, Eat Your Young has an air of sly sarcasm that draws heavily on the artist’s gospel music influences for a joyful sound that darts around heavy themes.

I was mistaken to think that the first track, which shares a name with the EP, would be a love song. Or, more accurately, that it would be just a love song — it’s hard to find a piece of Hozier’s work that doesn’t at least hint at romance. But “Eat Your Young” is a political piece more than anything. The title isn’t an allusion to nature, as I had expected it to be, it’s an ironic command to those in power.

Imagery of rising sea levels and drums of war draw a gruesome conclusion that seems to be asking the world, “If we’ve already done so much to harm our children and their futures, what’s left but to take that final, horrible step?”

By the next song, cheerfully titled “All Things End,” I was more or less able to anticipate the warm piano, clapping hands and full choir that accompanies the breakup song lyrics. This second track embraces that which is fleeting with open arms and snapping fingers.

While it follows the joyful example of the first, it isn’t without its hints of sadness. It’s especially prominent at the end of each chorus, when the backing falls away and Hozier’s vocals are left to echo in the silence.

As the EP progresses, the pop flavor falls away and there’s a stronger note of gospel influence.

By the third and final song, “Through Me (The Flood),” the moments of playfulness are fewer and farther between as the subject of impermanence shifts from love to life itself. Though it begins with soulful humming and something reminiscent of a church organ, the pace does pick up throughout the song. The rock drumming doesn’t necessarily lighten the mood, though, now confronting dark themes with the mask of irony fully dropped.

In this last track, my personal favorite from the EP, Hozier flexes his ability to blur songwriting with open-form poetry. Listeners are challenged directly to picture death and “the full extent of what forever is” while the song itself struggles to “measure” loss.

As I looked further into the EP, I was interested to see that this change, the spiral from joy to melancholia as tracks progress, is reflected in the release’s visuals with none other than a nature metaphor.

Official lyric videos for each song impose the words over scenes of the natural world, and as the EP progresses, they become more barren. The video for “Eat Your Young” has life flitting through a rippling creek, “All Things End” shows water bubbling past rain-saturated soil, and “Through Me” — the symbolism-heavy flood and funeral song dripping in tragic contemplation — plays over footage of wind in an empty desert.

The EP may not have been, at first, what I anticipated. But from it I got what any Hozier fan really wants: turbulent themes, timelessly inventive lyrics and some cool ideas about the natural world.

With the release, Hozier announced his worldwide “Unreal Unearth” tour, beginning in June and reaching its first U.S. location, St. Louis, in early September. Though as Taylor Swift fans, entertainers and American Congresspeople still snap at the titan of Ticketmaster, only time will tell what happens when the ticket sale countdown hits zero this Friday afternoon.

I, for one, am giving up before trying. For those ticket prices, I might as well just get Spotify Premium again.