Album Review : Hozier - Nina Cried Power (2018)
I’m not a big folk guy. Something about white men with dreamy gazes, acoustic guitars and bullshit melancholy gives me herpes of the mind. But Josie loves them. She loves folk singers a lot, so there's a lot of them playing at our house. It’s how I discovered Hozier, who most of you know as the Take me to Church guy. Sure, the song is amazing, but it’s only a reflection of who Hozier is as an artist: spiritual, ambitious and low-key genre bending. He’s legit. And he’s back after three years with a pretty solid four songs EP titled Nina Cried Power.
The title song is really the calling card of this EP. Featuring legendary r&b and gospel singer Mavis Staples, Nina Cried Power (the song) is a soulful celebration of the spirit of protest, to borrow Hozier’s own words. The lyrics are not blatantly paying tribute to militant artists of the past and present, but more to their unwavering mindset. “It’s not the song it is the singing/It’s the hearing of a human spirit ringing,” Hozier sings. I love that. It captures not only the spirit of protest, but also of creation. There’s an urgency and an immediacy to it. That is exists differently in memory than in the moment. Nina Cried Power is simple and anthemic. It is meant to be sang out loud at shows. But it’s not thoughtless by any means.
The arrangements on the song are quite simple and complement Hozier’s peculiar voice quite well: drums, keyboard, organ and, of course Mavis Staples’ playing off him. It’s not rock, not exactly gospel either and leaves breathing room to the wonderful, transcendent vocal performances. The following song NFWMB (Nothing fucks with my baby) is a heavy, lumbering apocalyptic folk ballad that has cool biblical imagery and lyrics of ravenous, unhealthy desire that I could dig: "The best of you/Honey, belongs to me”. I thought the instrumentation felt a little monotonous and bare to support the intensity of the lyrics, to be honest. It could’ve used pounding drums, ominous back vocals or something a little more theatrical.
My favorite song on Nina Cried Power, though is the sexy, bluesy Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue). It’s also the most typically Hozier-esque song on the EP. He’s an artist that’s at his best when his music is a little theatrical and the bombastic mix of roots rock and gospel choir here is really quite infectious. It perfectly complement his lyrics about the sanctity of physical love. Hozier’s been a critic of religion in the past and he’s exposing his philosophy on how love should be expressed and lived on this song: “A squall, and all of me is a prayer in perfect piety/A moment’s silence when my baby puts the mouth on me.” In other words: sex is beautiful and it brings you closer to God.
I don’t know about you, but I can get behind that message while dancing my life away.
I haven’t talked about Shrike because it is much closer to the folk music that I’ve described in the intro of this review than anything else on this album. Nina Cried Power is essentially driven by two songs, but these are absolute bangers, which in my opinion, are just as good as Take me to Church or even better. That’s a 50% success rate, which is great on such a short release because it makes it memorable. Hozier should have a new full length album out sometime next year, but if Nina Cried Power proves anything, it’s that he’s not a one hit wonder. He’s inspired, theatrical, think-outside-the-box indie rocker and should be celebrated as such.