Hozier’s new EP is ‘Too Sweet’

Hozier plays guitar at Austin City Limits in 2023. The Irish singer-songwriter, known for ‘Take Me to Church,’ released a new EP, ‘Unheard,’ on March 22, consisting of four tracks that did not make it onto his most recent album. // Photo courtesy of Kevin Kim

Nearly seven months after the release of his third studio album “Unreal Unearth,” Irish singer-songwriter Hozier released “Unheard” on March 22. The four-song EP consists of the tracks that did not make it onto his album, but they act together to form a strong stand-alone project.

Hozier has been in the limelight for years since his breakout debut song “Take Me to Church” in 2013. His first self-titled album was a beautiful collection of some of his finest hits like “Cherry Wine,” “Work Song” and “Like Real People Do.” Five years later, he followed it with his sophomore album “Wasteland, Baby!,” which became his first number one album in the United States.

Needless to say, “Unreal Unearth” was a highly anticipated album, and Hozier did not disappoint. The tracks take the listener on a journey through Dante’s “Inferno,” chronicling each layer of hell: limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, wrath, heresy, violence, fraud and treachery.

Similarly, “Unheard” follows the same path, with every track hinting at a different layer of hell. The songs are sonically diverse, but they somehow act cohesively, each one revealing a completely different side of Hozier that has remained unseen until now.

In the weeks leading up to the EP’s release, Hozier teased the song “Too Sweet” on TikTok, and it quickly went viral, becoming subject to copious lip-syncing
videos and fit checks.

The song represents gluttony in its purest form; Hozier wants to selfishly indulge in his lover, but he knows he cannot. In the catchy chorus he sings, “I’d rather take my whiskey neat / My coffee black and my bed at three / You’re too sweet for me,” implying that he is rejecting them because they are “too sweet” for him.

The bass line in “Too Sweet” is immediately all-consuming, giving the song an eerie, dark undertone that portrays the persistence of his gluttonous thoughts. It is reminiscent of “De Selby (Part 2)” on “Unreal Unearth,” feeding into the dark, almost evil persona that Hozier has given himself.

“Wildflower and Barley” stands in sharp contrast with its predecessor. While “Too Sweet” is funky and hauntingly addictive, “Wildflower and Barley” is simple and heavenly. It characterizes the circle of limbo, the act of dying without being absolved of original sin.

It opens with the sounds of nature, birds chirping and wind blowing, until an acoustic guitar fades in with the song’s melody. During the chorus, Canadian pop artist Allison Russell harmonizes with Hozier’s deep voice to elicit an otherworldly feeling, creating the illusion of laying in a patch of grass on the edge of a forest.

While the overall essence of the song is calming, the lyrics suggest something different. Hozier sings, “This year, I swear it will be buried in actions / This year, I swear it will be buried in words / Some close to the surface, some close to the casket.” 

The lyrics depict the struggle between humanity and nature since the beginning of time. The cycle repeats itself over and over through life and death. 

This theme is consistent with much of Hozier’s previous work, as he takes both lyrical and instrumental inspiration from the natural world.

“Empire Now” is exactly how a song representing the circle of violence should sound. The plucky guitar gives the guitar an old, Western feel before it explodes into the powerful chorus. Hozier’s use of big, booming drums and violins make the song feel like the backing track to a dramatic fight scene in a movie. 

The lyric “One hundred years from the empire now” references the Republic of Ireland’s independence from Britain in 1921. He uses the themes of colonialism and revolution to rejoice in Ireland’s freedom, and he yells, “Martyrs of our revolution / Their spinning caused the earth to shake.”

Finally, Hozier says goodbye to the era of “Unreal Unearth” with “Fare Well.” Rather than taking inspiration from another layer of hell, Hozier uses “Fare Well” as his ascent from hell’s depths. Throughout the course of three minutes, the song rises higher and higher, gradually gaining more power and joy. 

The song juxtaposes Hozier’s rising vocals with a folky, tropical tune in order to convey the journey out of hell. 

He sings, “Joy, disaster, come unbound here / I’ll deny me none while I’m allowed / With all things above the ground,” thus conveying his final acceptance of both the good and the bad things that come with being human.

Hozier’s use of political commentary, nature characterization and hidden meaning set him apart from any single genre or artist, and “Unheard” is a perfect example of his distinctive musical identity.

Through the EP’s sonic diversity, “Unheard” works together to end the passage through hell that Hozier takes on “Unreal Unearth.” 

Hozier expertly manipulates the power of music to his will in order to create a truly “unreal” work of art.