Julian Balboa/Staff Writer
Nina cried power and Hozier cried harder, I guess.
His new EP, “Nina Cried Power,” arrives after almost two quiet years following his contribution to the live-action Tarzan film. His debut album was released in 2013, which makes this new EP his first project in over five years.
For most artists, especially those signed to a major label like Hozier, that’s a death sentence. Five years is a long time, as major labels are usually impatient with artists that don’t make them money—especially if you’re an artist with a multi-platinum selling hit like “Take Me To Church.”
The idea is to then release something on the eve of the hype and/or attention gained via such a massive single. Hozier, by not releasing much new material since his debut album, clearly isn’t and wasn’t concerned with an immediate follow-up. Thus, we are now presented with the four-song EP.
The first track on the EP, the title track, is a boisterous arena rock song that’s paired with Hozier’s usual brand of accessible blues and soulful voice. It’s a testament to the protest artists whose names are said in the chorus. The song includes featured artist and singer Mavis Staples, which meant that Hozier had a vision for this song before its release. Its concept and message are clear, but the execution is an average-at-best attempt to replicate the level of performance songs like “Take Me to Church” or “Work Song.” While the message comes through, the chorus’ listing of influential names in protest music seems to make up for the lack of depth the song actually has. They’re good intentions, sure, but it comes off a bit hollow.
The rest of the EP is a bit of a drag as well. The second track, “NFWMB”, is much too long. The song’s instrumentation is a high point, the late addition of a synthesizer aside, but its weak songwriting fail to capture repeat listens. The song’s chorus, “Nothing f***s with my baby,” is repetitive and fails to be convincing in his cadence or the way he sings it. With a voice as powerful as Hozier’s, not utilizing his ability to belt out a chorus was a missed opportunity.
“Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue),” succumbs to the tropes of poppy blues rock that’s seen airplay in recent year—the drum’s tempo, the chord progression he sings in, and that obnoxious hand-clapping. The track’s songwriting is its only positive quality, but not enough to redeem it. Of the four, this is the most generic track on the EP and the least enjoyable.
In contrast, the last track, “Shrike,” was the big highlight of the entire project. The soft singing and guitar playing do a wonderful job of creating a great deal of the atmosphere. The very subtle percussion that contributes so much while doing so little. He also offers intimate lyrics of a lost romance. He likens his feelings to a bird that impales its prey to the thorn of a tree. Hozier sings, “I couldn’t utter my love when it counted… Remember me, love when I’m reborn/As a shrike to your sharp and glorious thorn.”
Overall, this EP was a lot longer than it needed to be. The quality of the music didn’t justify the runtime, it relies on tropes within the genre to carry some songs, and the songwriting is good on some and lacking in others.