soundstreamsunday: “To Be Alone” by Hozier

hozierip_spSay what you will about pop radio, you nostalgists and prognosticators of musical doom.  I will laugh and scoff with you, because there is, as there always has been, portents of conformity in the monochrome sameness of the popular. But your arguments against are blind to the tail-chasing beast:  it’s as often in pop as not that the true revolutions happen, where the work is done, before in creeps mimicry and gold diggery.  In the case of Hozier, the revolution is subversion by honoring the blues and soul music his native Ireland so loves.  In 2014 into 2015 he produced a bona fide pop radio hit in “Take Me To Church,” which got played on all the I Heart Radio stations in the U.S.  In true pop radio fashion it was catchy, easy on the ears, anthem-y.  But unusual too — it wasn’t hard to hear beneath the compressed radio waves a rock band sweating it out behind a gifted singer, songwriter, and guitarist.  It almost seemed like it was a mistake, because how long has it been since you heard an actual band pumping out the rock on a pop station? The song was from Hozier’s full length, self-titled debut, which, while not a perfect record, isn’t far from it.   With lyrics that investigate sexuality, religion, and drugs without robbing any of them of their dark poetry, the album maintains a soulful bounce that only occasionally loses its chug. Them-period Van Morrison would be proud.  “To Be Alone,” which Hozier put together, or so I understand because the internet on this point mostly fails me, as a tribute to Junior Kimbrough (who gets a writing credit), does not bear the stamp of Kimbrough’s rough electric blues — although perhaps captures the feel —  suggesting instead Peter Green during his brief time as the leader of Fleetwood Mac, it’s lead riff echoing the B riff of Green’s”Oh Well.” The production, too, has that dank, rainy reverb that Green loved, and deals in the dark depths of green manalishis and black magic women.  Knowing nothing of the man but his music, I can say that he’s gotten at least that bit right, and while it would be a stretch to say his is the future of pop music, that he found his way into pop’s armored compound is a righteous thing.

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