Nina Cried Power is undeniably Hozier, however,Â thereâs nothing about it that feels stagnant - a tantalisingÂ entrÃ©e for his upcoming sophomore LP.
With Nina Cried Power comes Hozierâs first non-soundtrack, studio album since his eponymous debut back in 2014. Itâs his third studio EP, his fourth overall itâs an extremely welcome release, hallmarking, as it does, the around-the-corner release of his second album.
The EP consists of four tracks, all instantly recognizable as being by Hozier, bombast and finger-picked guitar sit neatly alongside each other with plenty of biblical themes, imagery and political messages. The title opening track also features Mavis Staples lending her voice both for vocals and a brief spoken-word monologue.
'Nina Cried Power' kicks the EP off with an explosive drum beat that somehow isn't the most powerful part of the track, this honour belongs to the chorus vocal and the spoken word monologue from Mavis Staples. Itâs a track that simultaneously pays tribute to, and hopes to invoke, the protest and fire found in the music and spirit of the artists who are name-checked throughout the song. Among those who are mentioned through the song are Nina Simone (whose own song âSinnermanâ is sampled to make up the chorus of the song), Billie Holiday, Mavis Staples herself, Curtis Mayfield, B.B. King, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan, in addition to many others.
Next up is 'NFWMB,' or 'Nothing Fucks With My Baby' to use the full title as it can be found in the songâs chorus. Itâs a deceptive song, following on from the previous trackâs power with Hozierâs hushed, lilting vocals and the soft guitar line that introduces it. Crooned vocals and a gently propelling instrumentation lead you into a menacing, threatening track that is full of tense energy, punctuated by lightly proffered âfucksâ and stark lyrics, the guitar vibrating and ricocheting back and forth. It all feels barely held together and bubbling under the surface - itâs biblical and vast. Hozier describes it as âa love song for the end of the worldâ, and with lyrics such as âAin't it a gentle sound, the rollin' in the graves?/ Ain't it like thunder under earth, the sound it makes?â it's both cynical and disheartening.
'Momentâs Silence (Common Tongue)' is the most explicitly political song, though classically (for Hozier) obscured in imagery and dense lyrics that suggest just as much meaning as they seem to obscure. Itâs an anger-infused song that thunders down upon the listener, there is no darting back and forth furtively here, but instead a confident, unashamed stride. Itâs a confidence that reflects the surety that both of the mentioned parties in the song would share â on the one side there are the puritanical conservative powers, and on the other are two lovers enjoying each otherâs bodies (âMe and my babe relaxin' catchin' manic rhapsody/â¦ A moment's silence when my baby puts her mouth on meâ). On the one side there is self-sure judgment and condemnation, and then there's the self-sure ignorance of the other sideâs puritanism and hatred. Both sides call upon the idea of sacredness to support their stance; the idea of the sexual act being sacred and the belief that sacredness makes the sexual act disgusting and deplorable. Itâs the most âaliveâ of the tracks on the EP.
The EP ends with the gorgeous 'Shrike', a lovelorn track that conjures up some jarring imagery. Despite being almost as sonically full as the other tracks on the EP it feels stripped down and raw without the crescendos. The title comes from a type of bird, a shrike, that kills its prey before impaling it on thorns. In the track, Hozier likens himself to the shrike and to his lost, or old, love as the thorn. Thereâs a sense of homecoming, going back to the âthorn,â his love, and a sense of complicity in the two of them working together against their prey. The drums and bass sound echo-ey and sparse, like a thunderstorm in the distance, and Hozier lulls us, swaying, into the end of the EP.
Whilst itâs undeniably Hozier, thereâs nothing about Nina Cried Power that feels stagnant, or lacking in evolution or progress. Itâs clearly looking back, as all of Hozierâs music has, to the blues and folk music of the past, but itâs incredibly reflective and of the moment without a sneaking suspicion that it will sound dated in the years to come. Itâs cynical but loving, scared and angry but hopeful. Itâs crying out for attention to be paid, not just to itself but to the world around us. Hozier wants us to look around, but always remember what humanity and love can provide no matter how dark and drab the world may get.