Andrew Hozier-Byrne, better known by simply Hozier, is having a tremendous 2014. A virtual unknown at the beginning of the year, the success of the Irish singer’s ‘Take Me To Church’ single has seen his profile rocket to a globally recognised level, with a performance on Letterman endearing him to the tricky US market. The song reached six stateside, was a number one in Europe, and has been covered by Ed Sheeran, Kiesza and Neon Jungle.
Hozier’s eponymous debut album (review) was released in September and went top five here in the UK, peaking higher, at two, in the US. A blues-kissed, soul-footed set with some folk overtones, it’s a powerful precedent for whatever comes next from one of 2014’s most celebrated breakthrough artists.
Watch the video for Hozier’s new single ‘From Eden’ below, ahead of his reviews of this week’s singles.
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Kiesza – ‘No Enemiesz’
“Kiesza returns with another energetic disco anthem complete with tasty ’80s-era synth flair. This is a fun track, and delivers everything you’d expect as a follow-up to her hit single ‘Hideaway’, the video for which showcased her fantastic dancing skills. This song is executed very well. The track builds and adds some lovely vintage synth textures but remains reined enough to keep room for her vocals. She has a great attack to her voice, really nice and punchy. I find the beat can sometimes overshadow the fact she has a great set of pipes.”
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James Bay – ‘Hold Back The River’
“I had the pleasure of touring with James Bay, when he opened for me in America. He’s a lovely guy and a very talented songwriter. This was always a fantastic set-closer, as the energy just builds and builds. This is a great example of his strong rootsy influences being articulated in a song as catchy as it is soulful, something he does extremely well. It opens smouldering on that lovely pentatonic hook, building from there until it reaches anthemic level. James manages to write new and vibrant material with that very classic songwriter feel that can elude many, and this is a prime example.”
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George The Poet – ‘1, 2, 1, 2’
“There are few things more inspiring than something that carries with it originality and the will to innovate. I’ve long wondered when poetry will be seen again as a relevant and worthwhile medium for artistic expression by larger audiences. Appreciation for spoken word has been on the rise the past few years, and artists like George The Poet are screaming proof of its legitimacy and necessity. This song is comparatively lighter than his other work, which is often politically charged reflections on society, urban struggle and class divides. This song not only exudes positivity and individuality, it effectively encourages the positivity and individuality that the artist exemplifies. ‘If I can do it, you can too.’ To say he’s a breath of fresh air would be an understatement… If listening to this song does nothing more but leads you to listen to his other work, consider yourself a winner. In short, I think he’s deadly.”
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Blonde – ‘I Loved You’
“I’m not the right person to review dance tracks, and I fear my lack of experience with them will lead to me coming across as under engaged. This is a really tasty track, the syncopation between piano and drums has that irresistible quality to it. What I like most is the vocals. I think it’s played back at a higher speed, and has a real coiled spring feeling to it: exciting and tight as a drum. Vibrato sounds interesting, and I like that also. This is executed very well… The vocal part in the chorus, with its nice little call and response, reminds me of a Michael Jackson hit, and that’s a very good thing.”
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Wild Beasts – ‘Palace’
“This is a lovely slow burner of track. I really like it. The lyrics are very beautiful and sad, a nice heartfelt reflection on new love and its rescuing property. ‘You remind me of the person I wanted to be, before I forgot.’ I really love the imagery in the lyrics. It seems to draw the best of ’80s European new wave – and I’m reminded a bit of Alphaville, and The Smiths, in the vocal performance.
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Bad Breeding – ‘Chains’
“This song is balls-to-the-wall relentless. It’s not just balls to the wall – it’s entire genital apparatus to the wall. It’s genital apparatus flung violently at the wall. Over, and over again. I’m not familiar with Bad Breeding’s music. This is a short little track charged with the energy of many. The guys are really not pulling punches, and they’re good at what they do. If this type of music is to your taste, I’m sure this track will satisfy.”
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Photo: Alex Lake