By Sawyer Pollit, Staff Writer
Irish singer-songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne, better known by his stage name Hozier recently released a new EP: “Nina Cried Power.” I sat down with these four tracks to see how they stack up to Hozier’s previous work and if they stand up on their own as singles.
First, the eponymous title track “Nina Cried Power (feat. Mavis Staples)” was a strong opener that captured the atmosphere Hozier is known for. A feeling of tension present in the beginning of the song is relieved in the resolutions of every verse which explodes into a Soul-influenced chorus. These themes lend themselves well to the poignant lyrics – which pay tribute to classic musicians, clearly respected by Hozier. The feature in this song by notable Gospel singer Mavis Staples blends seamlessly into the song adding a vocal power that not only builds the rise and fall of tension but is integral to the atmosphere of this track.
Next, “NFWMB” is a dark love song that contains the most interesting harmonies of the EP. These harmonies draw the listener in, allowing them to get lost in the swamp that is this track, while still staying on their toes with an ever so slight dissonance. Swamp however is not used as a negative in this instance. “NFWMB” creates a mire that draws from aspects of Drone and Ambient music. This is seen most clearly in the layered and complex production that weaves a plethora of different droning notes including an organ played by the legendary Booker T. Jones, finger-plucked guitar, and synthesizers reminiscent of 80’s slasher themes.
“Moments Silence (Common Tongue)” contains elements of Blues music that seemingly come out of nowhere when held in the context of the EP. First impressions of this track bring to mind the work of classic Chicago Blues men of the 1940’s and 50’s. Though, this is one of the weaker tracks on the EP, offering little worth talking about. Aside from cryptic lyrics and a bluesy feel “Moments Silence” brings drastically less to the table that would make it stand out when put alongside other songs of the same EP.
The five-minute closing track “Shrike,” ends this project on a folksy note, but in the opinion of this reviewer also brings …to a weaker end than the previous three tracks build up to. “Shrike” simply goes on for far too long. It could easily stand to have 2 minutes shaved off of its 5 minute run time. I was left waiting for the song to end as opposed to savoring the last few minutes of the EP. Hozier’s sleepy vocals on this track coupled with plucky guitar grind the energy of the project to a halt.
Overall, “Nina Cried Power” feels like more of the same Hozier that people have come to know. Biblical themes, dark vocals, and impactful piano. The title track opens strong with a powerful message and leads nicely in to the ambient “NFWMB” which adds depth and complexity to the sonic landscape of this EP. However, the latter half contains roadblocks that prevent “Nina Cried Power” from shining as bright as it could. Although only clocking in at 17 minutes, the final two tracks drag on and easily become repetitive. The 5 minute “Shrike” stands out in this regard.
If you are a longtime fan of this artist and are looking for more of what you like, then you will undoubtedly find it in this EP. On a scale of 1 to 10, “Nina Cried Power” would land squarely as a 7.