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  • Writer's picturebellabriscoe

Hozier's Unheard EP - the Unreal Unearth cutting room floor

With four beautiful tracks which tragically didn’t make it into the final cut of Unreal Unearth, Unheard has all of the haunting melodies, soulful lyrics and groovy folk/blues fusion we know and love from Hozier. Every song is a testament to his incredible storytelling, and it’s interesting to imagine where the tracks could have fit in the overall narrative of the original album. The concept is framed around Dante’s nine circles of hell, and I think this context can really shift the listener’s perspective and interpretation of the lyrics.

Hozier is always one to say his lover is sweet. In Work Song, he would “never want from the cherry tree” because nothing’s sweeter than his baby. However, Too Sweet still has his natural kindness despite potentially being interpreted as a criticism. Since this song was used as the teaser for the EP, I have already seen many different analyses of the lyrics but personally I think he is criticising himself for being too bitter and undeserving of her. When thinking about this song in relation to his body of work, Hozier constantly portrays his lovers as ethereal bodies and himself as a mortal man beneath them. I truly believe this song is a continuation of such themes. Perhaps he will stay and see who she becomes under the pressures of life and if she will become more jaded, but until then they are incompatible. The heartbreaking lyrics contrast excellently with the rhythm and general composition, a musical device for which I will always love Hozier. The solid bass line solidifies this as an incredibly catchy and groovy song. The chorus had been floating around my brain for a week or more thanks to TikTok and so I had expected it to have become tired by the time the EP was released, but it still had me dancing and singing along when I heard the full song.

When the track list was announced, I had already claimed Wildflower and Barley as my favourite. It has that classic Hozier title that already had me painting an image in my mind with his intricate metaphors and symbolism. The title alone reminded me of Sunlight from Wasteland, Baby! so I was expecting the folk/blues fusion Hozier is so popular for, and he certainly delivered. The feature from Allison Russell was an excellent decision. Both artists have a great talent for story-telling and their voices compliment each other beautifully, the harmonies are practically hypnotic. The song really captures the feeling of sitting among the wildflowers and barley on a warm sunny day, so I can’t fault the way the track has been titled. There are certainly darker undertones to the lyrics, for example Hozier's continued infatuation with being buried. "Some close to the surface, some close to the casket" reminds me of my favourite line in Work Song where-in he begs to be laid gently in the cold dark earth because no grave would be able to keep him from his lover. There are many parallels to be drawn across Hozier's whole body of work which I admire. His consistency and strong themes bring me back to his discography again and again.

Although I had preemptively claimed Wildflower as my favourite, upon first listen I’m afraid it takes a very close second place behind Empire Now. It has an epic surging sound, and it would be a perfect soundtrack for a gritty fantasy drama. It is in a similar vein to Blood Upon The Snow and it demonstrates Hozier to be a soulful and emotive vocalist as well as just how well his tone fits orchestral string arrangements. He is a master of many genres, and that can be seen clearly in this EP alone. Empire Now is a beautiful juxtaposition of good and evil. It can be said the lyrics are talking about the fall of the British Empire and Irish independence but he still maintains that despite the darkness, love and kindness can still thrive. The sun is finally rising and the future is bright. However, as a bit of a pessimist, I feel that the line "the future's so bright it's burning" is referencing global warming. The whole song feels like a criticism of human behaviour and finally humans will wipe themselves out, and nature will begin to heal. The fact these songs were written during the COVID-19 lockdown influenced my analysis as we saw a lot of the natural world recovering when humans were absent. The driving drum beat really rattled through my body on the first listen and filled me with immense passion, a true testament to Hozier’s lyricism and the composition skills of his team. It’s definitely being added to my playlist of songs which make me feel like I could bench-press a bus.

“Fare Well” is an excellent example of Hozier’s love of wordplay. My interpretation is that the situation is dangerous and he won’t fare well, but he also doesn’t want to leave or say farewell. My favourite line is definitely “A kitten-cosy-in-the-engine type of wouldn't fare well”. It makes me think of a kind of calm before the storm, anticipating something disastrous but the cheerful and energetic chorus hints the opposite. I certainly wouldn’t mind a whole album or EP with this rhythmic, acoustic, energy. To come immediately after “Empire Now” feels slightly like emotional whiplash, but it is the perfect track to end the record. When listening on the surface, it feels like a joyful recovery from the heated passion and anger of the previous song, but when you look deeper, there is a cold sorrow.

I am still a little heartbroken to be without Rob the Goddess, but I am so glad Hozier released these songs, the idea they could have been left on the “Unreal Unearth” cutting room floor is tragic.

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