Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Hozier returns with four stunning “Unheard” tracks in new EP

Rachel Choi

Seven months after his album “Unreal Unearth” graced the world, critically acclaimed Irish singer-songwriter Hozier returned with an EP on March 22, “Unheard.” It consists of songs that didn’t make the original cut, and I was left flabbergasted as to how they were ever left out. From head-bobbing alternative pop to gliding acoustic, the EP showcases a litany of poetic lyrics and diverse sounds that Hozier never fails to bring to the table. 

Produced by Hozier, Bekon, Pete G, and Chakra, the first track, “Too Sweet,” is a certified face-scrunching and groovy bop with funky bass, grungy drums, tingling guitar, and Hozier’s signature smooth and rich vocals. The melodically addicting chorus, “I take my whiskеy neat / My coffee black and my bed at three / You’re too sweet for mе,” shows the inspiration for this song, the Third Circle of Hell, gluttony, from “Inferno.” 

Like “Unreal Unearth” from before, Hozier continues the direct inspirations drawn from Dante’s “Inferno” in these four tracks. 

Hozier depicts a relationship with two contrasting individuals: his partner, who is more disciplined with strong values (“You keep tellin’ me to live right”) and himself, who indulges in the simpler pleasures of life without worry (“…and the ground’s where I go.”) He encourages his partner to live life without worry as he does, something that would be considered potentially gluttonous and sinful—but also struggles with the idea of potentially negatively influencing the more innocent partner while still wishing to be with her, which can be heard through the wedding bells throughout the chorus. 

Hozier uses his signature sharp wit and tongue to paint a picture of a tangible relationship between two contrasting ideals while highlighting the freedom he feels with the choral backing vocals and jumping beat. 

Co-produced by Jeff Gitelman and Hozier, the second track, “Wildflower and Barley,” featuring Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Russell, feels like the beginning of spring, remaining static and yearning for something more. 

Accompanied by a smooth, lyrical acoustic guitar and mesmerizing background vocals, the song depicts a wish for something renewed amid a static, unhappy kind of peace, inspired by the First Circle of Hell—limbo—with masterful lyrics: “Springtime from my window / Another month has not much longer now / The sun hesitates more on each evening’s darkenin’ / Would all things God allows remain above ground / Like grief and sweet memory, wildflower and barley.” 

Russell’s flowing, crisp voice is a perfect feature of this track, adding a breezy ease. A Grammy winner of the Best Americana Album category, Russell’s collaboration with Hozier is something to be remembered as their harmonious vocals truly brought everything together.

The third track, “Empire Now,” starts with a heavy, thumping guitar that feels like the sweltering heat of a summer’s sun soothed by triumphant percussion. Performed by Hozier and Jordan Seigel, a composer and orchestrator who worked with Hozier on “Unreal Unearth,” the track is based on the Seventh Circle of Hell—violence—and aptly speaks of the violence the Irish endured under British rule. A powerful and resonant song, the lyrics sing of the struggle and fight the Irish endured until they gained their independence in 1921. 

Hozier signifies the British Empire as the “sun,” as they were known as “the empire on which the sun never sets.” He sings of the “Sun comin’ up on a dream come around / One hundred years from the empire now,” depicting the times when freedom was a dream. Now, just around 100 years ago from when Ireland gained its independence, the “Sun comin’ up on a world that’s easy now.” Ireland is free but will never forget the pain suffered and the sacrifices made to achieve freedom.

The fourth and final track, “Fare Well,” is based on Dante’s “outward ‘ascent’” while finally leaving Hell. Written and performed by Hozier and co-produced by Jennifer Decilveo, the lyrics depict someone who doesn’t “fare well” in the toxic, troubling situations they are in yet still embrace any pain or suffering that comes his way to feel the joy and fullness of life. 

The brighter melody of the guitar and the backing beat reminiscent of clapping hands intertwined with a more somber voice of Hozier and calm choral accompaniment adds to this feeling of resignation of pain but also full embrace of happiness the world can grant him. Even if everything falls apart, Hozier will still reach for the joy of being “unbound.” As he puts it beautifully, “Let the sun only shine on me through a fallin’ sky / I’ll be alright.” 

Overall, “Unheard” was something to behold. The four tracks felt so, so short, something I always think about whenever Hozier releases new songs. It was cohesive in theme, varied in sound, gorgeous in vocals, creative in instrumentals, and ingenious in lyrics. An impressive range of contributors brought this album to life. Still, as always, Hozier’s creative involvement in all of the processes shines through—his touch is recognizable in whatever he shows to the world.

From the first teaser of the EP to its release, fans have been eagerly awaiting this new cluster of songs and have not been disappointed. Received positively across the board, “Unheard” honors Hozier’s roots and showcases a range of Hozier’s abilities. 

As always, Hozier delivered something that I added to my playlist even before hitting play—and something I will be repeatedly relistening. Crafted perfection, “Unheard” has been heard by the world and will continue to be so.

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About the Contributor
Rachel Choi
Rachel Choi, Multimedia Managing Editor, Chief Copy Editor
Rachel Choi (she/her) is a WLP major with a concentration in publishing and a minor in PR. She currently serves as the multimedia managing editor and chief copyeditor for the Beacon. She also occasionally likes to write oddly specific articles.

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