Hozier Is Back With a Perfect Sophomore Album

Wasteland, Baby! Is an infectious passion project from one of the brightest minds in music today which slowly sucks you in further and further in with each listen.

Hozier is an indie/blues rock artist from Bray, Ireland. He debuted in 2013 with the Take Me to Church EP, the title track of which is still his most successful song to date, certified eight times platinum in the US alone. After the massive success, he went on to drop the From Eden EP, which was equally well received and left expectations sky high for an upcoming LP. His 2014 self-titled album debut certainly didn’t disappoint, featuring represses of much of the previous two releases while adding a few fantastic new cuts. The album went double platinum in the US and six times platinum in his home country of Ireland, spawning a large tour and and netting multiple awards. Fans were left clamoring for more but were largely met with silence until the release of the Nina Cried Power EP in late 2018. Now, just a few months later, we finally have a sophomore effort from the indie rock troubadour and it absolutely does not disappoint.

Wasteland, Baby! May be a bit jarring to fans of the debut, as was the preceding EP, as Hozier has returned with a wide array of new styles and effects, and a renewed focus on the instrumental side of his music which just didn’t exist before. This is made obvious in the baselines of the very opening track, “Nina Cried Power,” in addition to “No Plan,” a few cuts later. The bass guitar works extremely hard across this record, constantly moving with purpose and played with skill.

This is also extremely noticeable in the massive instrumental pallet of this album. The violins on “As It Was” lend a gravitas to an already fantastic, folk-inspired song, while the organ  work on “Be,” and across the majority of the latter half of the record is a wonderful touch. While the first album seemed a bit more consistent in terms of tone, I much prefer the expansive pallet and exciting nature of Wasteland, Baby!

Without a doubt, however, the most noticeable change is a massive focus on percussion on nearly every track. While a song like “Movement,” or “Sunlight,” is perhaps a bit more noticeable, it’s clear that Hozier put serious time and effort into each piece of the percussion on this album and it absolutely pays off. Never once do we hear a nondescript rock beat but in stead a minimalistic but effective collections of dynamic sounds keeping the rhythm.

All this being said, the best qualities of the album are still, by far, the elements we’ve come to expect and appreciate from Hozier’s work. The guitar work is wonderful. From the rolling, picked acoustic of “To Noise Making,” to the earworm riffs of tracks like “Talk,” and “Dinner & Diatribes.” His guitar is at the center of nearly every track and that’s never a bad thing.

The lyrics on this album are nothing short of poetry. “Almost,” is a wonderfully fun tribute to love and music using several lyrics from timeless the jazz standards of acts like Sinatra and Jelly Roll Morton. “Shrike,” on the other hand is breathtaking ode to a love lost using nature as a perfect metaphor. It’s also the best track on the album and one of the best tracks I’ve heard in a very long time. The closer and title track uses powerful apocalyptic imagery to describe the act of falling in love in yet another stroke of brilliance. Genuinely every track on this album stems from a wonderful lyrical idea and executed nearly perfectly.

The absolute, undeniable highlight on this album, however, comes in Hozier’s vocals. Whether it’s the Motown and soul inspired sound of a track like “Nobody,” or the booming, blues rock of “Would That I,” or any of the other 12 cuts on this album, Hozier’s voice is a constant presence. It’s soft and contemplative when it needs to be, and smoothly powerful at the perfect moments, and it is, overall, an absolute Iron Man effort from an incredible talent.

As this album wraps up, I’m struck by what a fantastic experience it was. The pacing is near perfect, never leaving me bored over a nearly hour long runtime, every song feels essential and unique, and every risk taken on the album pays off in full. Even the singles I didn’t love in the lead up have found a comfortable home on this record and have become some of my favorite cuts. The massive accomplishment that is this LP becomes even more incredible when you realize that each and every track is written, largely performed, and produced by Hozier himself.

Wasteland, Baby! Is an infectious passion project from one of the brightest minds in music today which slowly sucks you in further and further in with each listen. It’s an instant classic and it’s the second album in Brendon’s Beats history to receive a perfect score.

10/10

AMAZON LINK:https://amzn.to/2UbiiiB
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The George Washing Machines Drop Brutal and Daring EP

Overall, FUNERAL CRACK BINGE is one of the more daring and brutal projects I’ve heard this year, and while it’s certainly not for everyone, it’s a must hear if who wish to explore the fringes of underground music.
**TW: Bad Language**

The George Washing Machines is the experiment grindcore/doom metal alter ego of Jack Simpson. Created in 2012 in Washington, D.C., with the explicit goal of creating “the worst band of all time,” the outfit dropped a large collection of about 22 singles before falling off the map as Simpson shifted toward EDM music. Six years later, after the death of a close personal friend, Jack reignited GWM as an outlet to deal with depression while dabbling in experimental writing styles like taking quotes from a former crack addict or directly reciting a breakup letter written to an ex-girlfriend. Now much more mature and with a wide array of fascinating influences, the George Washing Machines has dropped FUNERAL CRACK BINGE.

The record opens with the hilariously titled “ANTHONY FANTANO WOULD PROBABLY GIVE THIS RECORD LIKE A 6.3,” which, itself, begins with a long and angry statement claiming that this is “not music.” The track that follows is a hellish, doom metal-inspired cut that is one of the better openers I’ve heard all year. This is the first of many points on the EP in which the drumming is excellent, but the brutally distorted guitars are actually the highlight for me here, aided by the periodically disorienting feedbacks.

It’s followed by “BITCH GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE,” which is a real freight train of a song. There’s a much heavier thrash and grindcore element as the fuzzy guitars chug along at a much faster tempo and the drums are driving and explosive. The vocals are quite impressive here, despite having no lyrics aside from repeating the title, bringing a gravelly quality that really adds to the track. The highlight, without a doubt, is the bizarre and abrasive breakdown that leads into the final chorus. While the electronic elements are fairly scarce across the EP, they add quite a bit to this song.

The best of the six tracks, “A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND,” comes next, and it’s here where Simpson finds a sound that this fairly unique to him. With heavy influences from post-punk and hardcore, this track turns out to be certainly the most accessible on the project, though that isn’t saying much. The drums are excellent on this cut, as are the vocals, and the balance struck between crushing instrumentation and singable melody is truly something to be proud of.

We seem to take a left turn to hell immediately after, however, with the title track, “FUNERAL CRACK BINGE.” This is one of the more brutal and caustic songs I’ve heard in quite some time, from the screeching loops to the pummeling screams and the almost reptilian effects of the outro. It’s a lush hellscape that should satisfy fans of the group’s earlier sound.

The post-punk returns, however, on “ANNA, PLEASE DON’T MOVE TO PORTLAND WITH JAKE.” The quick switches from heavy but accessible verses to genuinely horrifying choruses are jarring in the best way possible. There’s a desperation conveyed very well in the lead vocals and the guitars are gut wrenching on the choruses. Once again, the drums shine as being extremely well played and arranged, and it makes for yet another fantastic track.

We close out with “I MEAN I GUESS WE CAN FUCK IF YOU WANT TO…” and it’s here where I will find my first substantive complaint as the more electronic, industrial style of this track makes it feel quite out of place in the lineup. That being said, it is a great song. The loops are extremely well utilized, the rapping from Young Socrates is phenomenal and jam packed with emotional delivery, and the ending may be the best on the record. Though it does feel a bit out of place here, it does give hope that future releases could tend toward more electronic, Death Grips inspired tone.

While my complaints are minor, I do have a few, most of them stemming from the production side. First and foremost, the drums. While they’re perfectly performed, they seem to have been left almost bare in terms of EQ and could do with a bit of touching up. Additionally, the there is a pervasive static across the record, which likely comes from the several higher pitched cymbals and the near constant overdrive on guitars and vocals. Having a constant amount of noise is, of course, not a bad thing on a noise rock record, but much of this seems to come from nowhere, and could likely be fixed with a bit tighter EQ on the instruments. All of this, however, is fairly forgivable, considering the EP’s DIY style.

Overall, FUNERAL CRACK BINGE is one of the more daring and brutal projects I’ve heard this year, and while it’s certainly not for everyone, it’s a must hear if who wish to explore the fringes of underground music.

4/5