Sunday, September 03, 2023

Kat's Korner: Hozier takes you on a trip

Kat: UNREAL UNEARTH is the third album from Hozier, the Irish singer-songwriter who came to prominence with "Take Me To Church." 

The massive hit -- 766 million views of the video above on Hozier's VEVO channel, a memorable performance of it with Annie Lennox on the Grammys in 2015 -- is probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing.  In fact, most artists don't even get one hit that massive in their entire lifetime.

But his second album, WASTELAND, BABY, proved he was an artist for the long-run with strong songs like "Nina Cried Power,"  "Nobody" and "Movement." 

Last week, he was on GOOD MORNING AMERICAN promoting the new album and he performed "De Selby (Part 2)."

In doing so, he also reminded what a great singer he is.

Singer-songwriters are not necessarily great singers.  Some are very talented -- Carly Simon could have been a jazz singer -- but some are much better songwriters than singers -- Jackson Browne comes to mind and certainly it's also true of Carole King.  That's not arguing that they can't sing.  It's noting that they're not great singers and we might not know of them if it weren't for their songwriting skill.  Of course, the best example of that is always going to be Bob Dylan who has a distinctive singing voice but no one would mistake him for someone who, without being a songwriter, could have ever made his mark in music.

Hozier really posses a range and the kind of clarity of a true singer.  He teams with Brandi Carlile on "Damage Gets Done."

The duet brings out the best in the both of them.  It's probably the most buoyant song on the album.   But the darker songs are pretty amazing.  Take "To Someone From A Warm Climate."

A joy, hard learned in winter was the warming of the bed

You'd shake for minutes there and move your legs
Wrap the blanket over you and keep your head within
Let your breath heat the air until you’d feel it getting thin
The feel of coldness only water brings
There are some things that no one teaches you, love
That come natural as a dream you didn’t know that you were in
And darlin', all my dreamin' is only put to shame
And darlin', all my dreamin' has only been given a name
But it came easy, darlin'
As natural as another leg around you in the bed frame
In summer's heat, I learned to dread the comin' of the night
The awful things we do to make the head go quiet
You’d press your body to the concrete when you were small
The rains of winter seemed to never leave the walls
The feel of coolness only water brings
There are some things that no-one teaches you, love
That God in his awful wisdom first programs in

Hozier wrote that song with Jeff "Gitty" Giteleman. It's a beautiful song and one of my favorites.  There are many songs I love on UNREAL UNEARTH which is a sort-of travel piece across the emotional terrain.  Some may just want to take a brief vacation there, some may want to live there but any who take the time to listen will have a memory or two they can share with others.

The most popular track on the album in terms of streams on his VEVO channel would be "First Light."

It's a sonic landscape that is like the ocean -- waves lapping at the sand -- begging you to step in. 

 Speaking of waves, check out "Butchered Tongue."

Hozier's an album artist and grabbing a song here or there really is like pulling a loose strand of yarn on a sweater.  The way to truly experience this artist is to listen to the album itself, put it on and let it play without breaks.  

The music business is yet again in crisis mode.  That's because they have been stripping the soil in their desire for quick money.  A bunch of artists who aren't artists but have a had a hit or two -- or in one songbird's case, many hits -- all of them bad -- got way too much push from the labels and now, low and behold, it turns out these non-artists can't really sell.  When you triple-tracked ____'s voice and punched in her vocals, it appeared she could sing.  But she cratered in 2017 and she's not coming back.  

You should have invested in artists.  

Bubble gum lasts a moment.  Only a moment.  It does not renew.  It dates quickly and people move on.  

By contrast, investing in an artist like Sade?  She and her band could release an album next year and it would sell because she is an artist and she has connected with an audience, bonded with them through her music.  

Sade is a high-water mark, yes.  But listen to "Abstract" and other songs on UNREAL UNEARTH and grasp that Hozier isn't trying to 'bring sexy back,' he's making art.