Sun. May 26th, 2024

Image: “Unheard” by Hozier EP Cover

From the depths of Dante’s Inferno, Hozier unearthed four songs that hadn’t made the cut for his most recent album, “Unreal Unearth” (2023). On March 22, he treated his fans to “Unheard” (2024), a collection that emits the same earthy, savory musk as his album. As an EP, it beautifully compliments “Unreal Unearth” while bearing the understanding why these four tracks weren’t included. In fact, it may be better that they hadn’t been; they stand quite strong on their own soiled, muddy feet.

Too Sweet

“Too Sweet” is gluttonous both in its catchy lyricism and memorable acoustics. On a first listen, it makes you scrunch your face up and nod your head to Hozier’s buttery vocals. On an inevitable second, third and hundredth listen, you find yourself shamelessly singing along. This track perfectly exhibits what a standout song is — there’s a reason the chorus went viral on TikTok weeks before its release. Even so, every verse holds its own woodsy and addictive charm. The lyrics exquisitely describe Hozier’s lust for the song’s subject, as he describes them to be “bright as the morning / as soft as the rain / pretty as a vine / sweet as a grape,” in a crooning, delicious manner. “Too Sweet” is definitely the cream of the crop on “Unheard” and has held my Spotify account in a chokehold.

Wildflower and Barley (feat. Allison Russell)

With an initially mellow and pleasing melody, “Wildflower and Barley” evokes synesthesia: what raindrops falling atop leaves in a damp forest sounds like. Hozier’s voice mingles gorgeously with Allison Russell’s, creating a lovely harmony. As the song progresses, it grows into a lonesome, captivating track about longing for renewal. Together, Hozier and Allison Russell calmly remark about feeling “as useful as dirt” in a softly haunting way. The track feels almost too personal and intimate for our ears in the best way, as if Hozier is whispering its lyrics to himself for no one else to hear. “Wildflower and Barley” is a yearning, relatable piece and one of my favorite examples of Hozier’s collaborations with other artists.

Empire Now

The violent passion of “Empire Now” feels like a proclamation of independence and individuality. Written as a reflection of Ireland’s split from Great Britain in the early 1920s, this track holds specific personal value to Hozier but is universal enough to be applied to nearly any fight for freedom. You can almost picture Hozier stomping his foot and howling the bold lyrics in a rustic, roofless barn accompanied by the experimental heavy bassline. While listening to the recognition of “the martyrs of our revolution / their spinning caused the earth to shake,” — faces of many influential activists who sacrificed their efforts and sometimes their lives for their cause come to mind in an impactful, hard-hitting way. “Empire Now” isn’t just a tribute; it’s a harsh reminder of time passing from the lens of social change.

Fare Well

As a delightful example of wordplay, “Fare Well” marks a bittersweet conclusion to “Unheard.” The slightly shocking lyricism slips under your radar, which is the point. Hozier shrouds his jaw-dropping penmanship beneath an upbeat, entrancing tune. You only notice how troubling the lyrics are when you look them up — mentions of a “hedgehog-under-a-van-wheel,” “a kitten-cozy-in-the-engine” and “a dog-deep-into-the-chocolate kind of wouldn’t fare well” cause a double-take. As a listener, you’re meant to be in the position of these animals: indulging in comfort and completely oblivious to the dark, deadly undertones of what’s possible. The title of the track itself is a play on words: any overconsumption on comforting behaviors causes the subject to not “fare well” while not wanting to “farewell” from that behavior despite the risks. “Fare Well” may be sadly underappreciated despite being a great work of wit in its fun instrumentals and creative lyrics.

It’s absurd that even originally-discarded tracks of Hozier’s are as fantastically-written and unique as the rest of his discography. These four appetizing tracks on “Unheard” are prime instances of good songs both in the context of the album they were made for and on their own. One thing about Hozier is for certain: he does not seem to miss.

 


Danielle Margarite is a third-year Media & Culture major with a minor in Digital Marketing. DM968994@wcupa.edu

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