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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

REVIEW: Hozier enchants listeners once again with new addition ‘Unheard’

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Savanna Nichols
(Illustration)

After Hozier’s most recent album “Unreal Unearth” was released on Aug. 18, 2023, fans expected interviews, new merch, and maybe even a U.S. tour. 

On March 14, Hozier announced that he would be doing one better by dropping four new tracks that were initially composed for “Unreal Unearth,” an album inspired by the circles of hell depicted in Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno.” Fittingly, the “Unheard” EP offers listeners a bite-sized version of “Unreal Unearth,” and its songs carry the themes of that album every bit as ably. 

Within 24 hours of its release, “Too Sweet” was a viral hit. Written from the perspective of an unapologetic hedonist breaking up with their clean-living partner, this is a quintessential Hozier song, breaking the news of a hard truth while making room to acknowledge beauty within that truth. There are hundreds of versions of “It’s not you; it’s me” songs in existence, but Hozier’s funk-groove version is suitably complex — sugar-coated compliments come loaded with the bitter aftertaste of condescension.

The opening measures of “Wildflower and Barley,” filled with peaceful chirping birds and soft acoustic guitar, might evoke the image of a carefree picnic love song; but the further we get from its “Springtime in the country” opening line, the more the heavy bassline carries the song as bliss gives way to a quiet struggle between death and rebirth. Allison Russell and Hozier’s first duet together lingers in the circle of limbo as Hozier contemplates quarantine isolation and COVID-19 deaths via overgrown fallow and the river Styx.

The dark blues sound in “Empire Now,” accentuated by heavy, foreboding drums and Hozier’s haunting falsetto, is a plaintive call to battle, with references to Ireland’s struggle for independence from British rule and those executed in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising. Hozier asserts that we should continue the fight for the better world to come, even knowing we might not live to see its fruition. 

“Fare Well” coincides with Alighieri’s “ascent” from his tour of hell, but instead of living his life in fear of being punished in hell at its end, Hozier is “alright” with pleasures that might lead to sorrow. The light acoustic jauntiness of the song disguises the message in a manner that Hozier fans are used to by now — reminiscent of the way “All Things End” from “Unreal Unearth” delivered its fatalistic message with the inherently hopeful sound of a gospel choir as backing vocals.

A beautiful and effective complement to “Unreal Unearth,” Hozier’s “Unheard” EP deserves to be heard.

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About the Contributors
Kaitlynn Peres, Reporter
Kaitlynn Peres is a first-year reporter and photographer for the The Sunflower. Peres is a second-year psychology major who grew up in Olathe, KS. She plans on becoming a therapist after attending a masters program in either social work or counseling. Peres uses she/her pronouns.
Savanna Nichols, Illustrator/Designer
Savanna Nichols is a first-year illustrator for The Sunflower.

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