November 27, 2018 Hozier – Nina Cried Power (EP Review)
He brought you to your knees and took you to church, and now Hozier has delivered a brand new EP, Nina Cried Power, which arrived back on September 7, 2018, thanks to Rubyworks/Columbia Records.
Irish Singer-Songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne took the world by storm when he released his debut 2013 EP Take Me to Church, which featured the smash hit single of the same name. His full-length debut, Hozier, arrived a year later and, in 2015, he released the Live in America EP. Using his music as a tool for social activism, Hozier has released videos that depict anti-gay violence in Russia (“Take Me to Church”) as well as pointing a spotlight on domestic abuse awareness (“Cherry Wine”). In his short career, he has been nominated for a Grammy, performed with Annie Lennox, and, just yesterday, participated in the Austin City Limits-sponsored Bedstock to raised money for seriously ill children on Giving Tuesday 2018.
There is no denying when you have talent, and Hozier has it in spades! For his first new material since the “Better Love” single in 2016, the Irish lad culls together four brand-new tracks that run the gamut of sounds and emotions. It might merely be a whetting of the palate for his upcoming, as yet untitled 2019 sophomore release, but it’s a phenomenal one, and a reminder that some people can turn everything to gold with their talents.
A steady drum beat along with commanding piano work begin the sweep into the EP’s titular track, “Nina Cried Power.” Here, the full focus is directed toward Hozier’s compellingly emotional, sweeping vocal performance – complete with Gospel singer Mavis Staples to complement his every note with her equally passionate vocals. A respect-filled tribute to those that have used their microphones for social activism throughout the years, there are lyrical nods to Nina Simone (for whom the song is named), Patti Smith, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and more. “Power has been cried by those stronger than me,” Staples offers in a line that drives home the emotional heft of a song that will hit you right in the feels.
As if in reaction to this immensity, Hozier dips into a darker, moodier acoustic-driven lilt for “NFWMB,” an acronym for “Nothing Fucks With My Baby.” Biblical themes and a nod toward William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming” tango inside a set of lyrics that paint a seductive portrait of a lover amidst the end of the world, burning in passion as the world devolves toward the ultimate funeral pyre. There’s a poetic intensity to “NFWMB” that belies its delicate sonics, creating an entrancing dichotomy that is an infectious earworm.
Going for a more electrified, rocking vibe, “Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)” stomps through some bluesy territory as Hozier blends sensual imagery of two lovers while questioning the “moral majority” and conservative views of sex. Conversely, there’s a delicacy to the beautifully-authored acoustics of the folksy “Shrike,” where Hozier openly laments his inability to voice his love and appreciation in a lost relationship. Failing to appreciate what we have when we have it is the theme here, one that is portrayed in a wonderfully intimate and emotional sonic setting where Hozier’s words are, as so often is the case, front and center.
Like a truly great actor, Hozier reinvents himself continuously and, despite the Nina Cried Power EP being only four songs, he offers up a world of depth herein. It’s a tease, yes, but a deliciously effective reminder that this man is exceptionally talented and, perhaps most importantly, he’s fully intent upon using those talents to point a spotlight on some of the ills of our world in hopes of inspiring change. An artist born in the Folk tradition who crosses genres fluidly and never sits complacent in his successes, Hozier provides poetically insightful lyrics amidst a seductive, radio-friendly sound. To put it simply: Hozier cries power! For these reasons, Cryptic Rock give Hozier’s Nina Cried Power EP 5 of 5 stars.