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'Wasteland, Baby!' review: Hozier still tackling big subjects on his sophomore album 

Hozier's "Wasteland, Baby!" on Columbia Records

Hozier's "Wasteland, Baby!" on Columbia Records Photo Credit: Columbia Records

HOZIER

Wasteland, Baby!

BOTTOM LINE The “Take Me to Church” singer’s sophomore CD is less solemn

Hozier hasn’t scaled back.

The Irish singer-songwriter, who made a giant international splash with the massive 2013 hit “Take Me to Church,” is still tackling big topics with big, cinematic sounds on “Wasteland, Baby!” (Columbia), his sophomore album.

The gorgeous first single “Nina Cried Power” pays tribute to soul singers. Backed by Mavis Staples and a gospel choir, he name-checks everyone from Nina Simone and Billie Holiday to James Brown and Joni Mitchell. On “Almost (Sweet Music),” he offers shout-outs to Duke Ellington and Chet Baker, though the hand-clap driven jangle seems to owe more to George Ezra than those jazz greats. Even when Hozier looks to be light-hearted, the production still seems geared to huge arenas, offering one anthem after another, whether it’s the frantic, intense “Dinners & Diatribes” or the laid-back, groove-driven “To Noise Making (Sing),” where he declares, “You don’t have to sing it nice, but honey sing it strong.”

Maybe that’s what makes the title track of “Wasteland, Baby!” such a delightful change of pace, as Hozier delivers a love song at the end of the world in a swirl of acoustic guitars. It’s a welcome bit of sweetness in a sea of seriousness.

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