“Nina Cried Power,” the new four-song EP from Hozier (whose full name is Andrew Hozier-Byrne), is a much-needed collection of new music from one of modern rock’s most original artists. To be released next year, the EP is the precursor to a full-length album, Hozier’s first since 2014.
Hozier’s only full-length album released to date, the self-titled “Hozier,” was an eclectic mix of indie, blues and soul influences that was a critical and commercial success, as the lead single earned him a Grammy nomination and the album went on to sell more than 1 million copies worldwide. With the exception of a really bad song written for “The Legend of Tarzan” soundtrack, the four songs on “Nina Cried Power,” are the first new music released from the Irishman since “Hozier.” While the EP is not Hozier’s best work by any means, “Nina Cried Power” is a welcome break from the bland pop-rock of Imagine Dragons and Panic! at the Disco that is currently dominating the charts.
The title track of the EP, which features legendary singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples, is a tribute to Nina Simone and the many other artists who used their musical gifts to promote the civil rights cause. The track’s clear politics are mild for Hozier, whose most popular song, “Take Me to Church,” is a ripping condemnation of homophobia in religious organizations. As a song, “Nina Cried Power” is a soulful rock number that gives Hozier a chance to use his powerful voice. Staples’ raspy cries complement Hozier’s deep voice fairly well, and her inclusion provides a clear connection to the subject of the song — protest songs and their influence in the civil rights movement. Though it grows repetitive by the end, “Nina Cried Power” is a solid addition to Hozier’s catalog.
By far the weakest song of the album is “NFWMB,” an acronym that conceals the song’s explicit title. It is an atmospheric pop song with some incredibly twisted lyrics. Hozier sings, “If I was born as a blackthorn tree / I’d wanna be felled by you / held by you / fuel the pyre of your enemies.” It’s a song unlike any other Hozier song, and he deserves credit for experimenting with his sound. However, the spooky sonics and lyrics make for a song I’d only play on Halloween.
The strongest song on the EP is “Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue),” a bluesy stomp that showcases the best of Hozier. While the lyrics are characteristically dark and inaccessible, he cuts loose with his huge voice on the chorus, and the guitar work throughout the song is superb. The mix of blues and soul that fans of his first album have come to expect is certainly alive in “Moment’s Silence.” While it might not attain the popularity of “Nina Cried Power,” it is certainly my favorite song on the album.
The final song on the EP, “Shrike,” is an acoustic ballad in the vein of the enormously popular “Cherry Wine” off of Hozier’s last album. The song gets its title from a species of bird that eats meat and is known for pinning carcasses of its prey on thorns. While the song is beautiful and Hozier’s voice sounds gorgeous over the acoustic guitar, the lyrics are about as comprehensible as “Moby Dick” written in Latin. Despite that, the song is the second most popular of the new songs on Spotify, second only to “Nina Cried Power.”
Despite the new EP not being of the same quality as “Hozier,” it certainly showed Hozier back in full force after too long of an absence. Fans of Hozier and good rock should be excited about his new full-length album due to arrive next year.