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Hozier | Wasteland, Baby!

Five years after heading to church, Hozier finally answers fans' followup prayers.

Five years ago, Hozier asked everyone to take him to church — and millions of fans around the world were happy to oblige. Then the Irish singer-songwriter born Andrew Hozier-Byrne took his sweet time putting together a followup to his chart-topping self-titled 2014 debut album. Thankfully, everyone’s prayers have finally been answered. And they’ve been given everything they asked for. Assuming, of course, that they requested an album that takes his gospel-soul sound to grand new heights. Because that’s what they’re getting on the ambitious and artful Wasteland, Baby! It begins in earnest with leadoff track and first single Nina Cried Power — a mighty soul stirrer that features the one and only Mavis Staples while name-checking heroic icons and iconoclasts like Nina Simone, James Brown, Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. The rest of the album follows suit, as heavyweight producers Markus Dravs and Rob Kirwan flesh out Hozier’s weathered pipes and spindly Delta-blues fingerpicking with rich layers of sound and texture, from thumping drums and buzzy basses to fully landscaped choirs, swelling keyboards and cathedral-sized clouds of reverb. Nothing quite rises to the lofty heights of Nina Cried Power, but not for lack of trying. And with tracks that recall everyone from Van Morrison and Nick Drake to Jeff Buckley — without sacrificing Hozier’s own distinctive sound and style — this album should seem nothing short of heaven-sent to the faithful.