By Erin Caine
Not only is Hozier back after about three years of radio silence, but he’s teasing a second album in the works, as well.
Though the Irish singer-songwriter seemed overnight to become a new epiphany in modern music with his eponymous debut album and Grammy-nominated song “Take Me to Church,” not since 2015’s “Live in America” extended play has he put out any significant amount of new music.
That changed when, early in September, Hozier released another extended play, “Nina Cried Power,” which features the title track along with three other new songs.
The title of the track “Nina Cried Power” references American soul singer and Civil Rights activist Nina Simone. In an interview with Billboard, Hozier called the song “a thank you note to the spirit of protest,” and adds that he’s paying homage to the American blues, jazz, and R&B artists that shaped him, such as Simone, Billie Holiday, James Brown, and Mavis Staples — a Hall of Famer and activist who lends her voice to the track.
Hozier, continuing to speak about these influences and, specifically, Staples’ involvement, said that “everything that’s popular music swings off the work and the achievements and the legacy of black artistry. … I wanted to credit the legacy of the artists in that song and the names were kind of popping into my head, [and] I knew it needed Mavis. That was a very integral part of the song for me.”
It’s clear that he approached the song with a desire to remind listeners that the civil liberties they enjoy today were only made possible by the efforts of those like Simone and Staples, who marched in the streets with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and wrote songs that jolted the public consciousness.
As for not being American, himself, Hozier said the Irish have their own history of civil rights battles. “We’re all part of a global community at this stage,” he said. “In the same way that culture and values cross the world now in such an easy way, we don’t really live in a bordered world when it comes to culture and media.”
Hozier found himself burnt out after a few years of touring his first album, and so he “hermited” himself for a while as he put together demos and took a needed break from the limelight. But, according to recent news, he plans on releasing his second full-length album next year. In the meantime, fans can enjoy the four new songs off the “Nina” EP.
The second track, “NFWMB” (an acronym for the line he utters in the chorus), sets a drifting, almost eerie melody, overlaid with vocal harmonies, to the bluegrass pickings of an acoustic guitar. The song, lacking energy and escalation, puts the listener in a trance-like state throughout its enigmatic, almost bleak, four minutes.
“Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)” picks up the slack with a jaunty rhythm, its percussion made up of finger snaps, choosy kick drum, and the thrum of the bluesy electric guitar. The song is featured on the season five trailer of the ABC show “How to Get Away with Murder.”
“Shrike” is the longest track at over five minutes, and the acoustic guitar and melody in the beginning is reminiscent of Hozier’s song “Cherry Wine.” Both tracks betray his Irish roots, and the intricate melody, simple rhythm, and varied instrumentation of traditional Irish folk music. The title of the song references a type of bird known for its shriek-like call. “I couldn’t utter my love when it counted. But I’m singing like a bird about it now,” he sings.
If this extended play is any indication of the quality of music to come in 2019, listeners can rest easy knowing that Hozier is an artist who can’t help but sing from the soul.