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The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Hozier stuns with new ethereal EP

Brooklyn Leighton

Irish singer-songwriter Hozier enthralled fans with his new EP filled with songs from his newest album that survived the cutting room floor with “Unheard”  March 22. 

His third studio album “Unreal Unearth” was released in August 2023, a concept album based on the 1321 poem “The Divine Comedy” by Dante Aligheri. Hozier explores the nine circles of hell, taking his real-life experiences and stories told by Aligheri and blurring the lines between the two. The beautiful and masterful album ran 16 tracks, each song referring to a different circle. 

Each song on the EP had its respective circle, Hozier stated: “Too Sweet” belonging to gluttony, “Wildflower and Barley” a contender for limbo, “Empire Now” for the circle of violence and “Fare Well” for the ascent into heaven.

The first track on the EP titled “Too Sweet” is a groovy pop song that is unlike anything we have heard from his mostly rock and alternative releases. Hozier is known for his complex lyrics, deep metaphors and is notorious for never spelling anything out for his listeners. 

The song is about disinterest, being about his partner who is too different from him and wants to change his way of life, while he wants to keep his life the way it is. He tells her that until she takes him as he is, he would rather take his whiskey neat, the more bitter and simpler version. This song has been interpreted many ways by fans, many thinking this is him alluding to him not wanting a partner who is sweet but rather someone who is mean-spirited and rough around the edges. Other theories include that he could be talking about age, that his partner is too young and innocent for him. 

The bassline and ironic wedding church bell sample make this track super fun to listen to. Hozier’s vocals, wah-wah guitar and bass carry this track like no other. Upon re listen, this track is a skip due to its immense success on the billboard charts and the song’s spread over social media. This track opening the EP was a great choice, setting the tone for the journey that Hozier is about to embark on. 

“Wildflower and Barley,” the second track featuring Grammy-winner Allison Russell, is a powerful soul duet that swoops listeners off their feet. Russell and Hozier’s vocals blend together perfectly; their harmonies are flawless and are two voices that are meant to sing together. 

The lyricism paints a beautiful picture, accompanied by elegant production. A song that was written during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, this track is about the quiet and isolation people felt during the height of that time. Hozier made this track playful on purpose, with a hint of solemn but somehow hopeful undertone. 

The track starts off with a simple acoustic guitar and then ascends into a blues-like bassline and piano. The chorus adds in a tambourine, R&B-inspired drums and the continuous melodic acoustic guitar and piano. 

This track stands out from the rest by taking a complete turn from its predecessor, a song that almost everyone in the world can relate to; the feeling of emptiness and sadness seeing public places once filled with people that were empty during the peak of the pandemic. 

The EP takes a complete turn for the cinematic and war-cry third track “Empire Now.” Similar to the song he recorded with Bear Mcreary for the “God of War: Ragnarok” soundtrack, this production-heavy track has a gnashing digital beat and a slide guitar that you can feel in your bones. The heavy bass and percussion hits paired with grassroots and western-inspired guitar, transporting listeners to a different realm. The accompanied strings during the bridge and final chorus are gorgeous and cinematic. Hozier’s fleeting vocals and piercing falsettos capture the listener’s attention, as well as the church choir-inspired backing vocals that add even more to the ambiance.

“Empire Now” is a song about the liberation of Ireland, one of the lyrics mentioning it has been 102 years since Ireland gained independence from British rule. He uses the sun as a metaphor in a few ways, first as a reference to the British Empire which once referred to itself as the “empire on which the sun never sets.” Second, he uses it as a commentary on how the government ignores the pressing matter of climate change and global warming, telling the listeners to enjoy their time on Earth because we might not be here long. 

Hozier closes the EP with finality for the last track “Fare Well.” The track, meant for the ascent of the album, is a heavy lyric song in disguise with an upbeat production. He paints a picture of doing something that is presumably dangerous, but provides temporary comfort. He uses metaphors describing himself as “a-kitten-cozy-in-the-engine” and “a-dog-deep-into-the-chocolate.”  

He says he “wouldn’t fare well” from this, knowing that this situation won’t end well but it makes him feel safe for the time being. These solemn themes are backed by bright major keys, rhythmic clapping percussion and a soft violin. The church choir backup vocals create an ethereal ambience to “Fare Well.” This song ends the EP strong with a long instrumental to end it, just like “First Light” in “Unreal Unearth.” 

“Unheard” takes listeners through multiple different journeys. Hozier provides ethereal vocals, lyricism and solid production on all four tracks, making this EP a worthwhile listen. Even though the EP isn’t meant to be cohesive due to the circles being out of order, all of the songs that were chosen blend together well. Hozier never falls short of making a good project, constantly raising the bar with his poetic words and striking vocals. From blues-inspired soul tracks like “Wildflower and Barley” to pop anthems like “Too Sweet,” Hozier makes his fans question the idea of him sticking to one genre.

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About the Contributors
Casey Wells
Casey Wells, Staff Writer | she/her
Casey is a sophomore broadcast journalism major from Worcester, Massachusetts. When she isn't in the Journal office, you can find her in the Performing Arts Office or any place near campus that has coffee. In addition to the Journal, she is a dancer and on the e-board of Suffolk's dance crew, Wicked. In her free time, she loves to read, write, dance, listen to Hozier and play guitar.
Brooklyn Leighton
Brooklyn Leighton, Opinion Editor | she/her
Brooklyn is a junior English major with a concentration in creative writing and a minor in journalism from Falmouth, Massachusetts. When she isn’t writing poetry and prose, she is listening to Taylor Swift, watching Marvel movies, or reading. She loves cats, baking, history and spending time with her friends. After graduation, she plans on becoming an author and literary agent. 

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