Column | Hozier’s new single ‘Unknown / Nth’ fails to live up to past releases

By Kiran Bond, buzz Editor

Hozier released “Unknown / Nth,” a single from his upcoming album “Unreal Unearth” on Friday.

Hozier, a 33-year-old Irish musician and singer-songwriter, is well known for his mega-hit “Take Me To Church.” The track, released in 2013, has amassed over two billion streams on Spotify.

Since then, Hozier has released two albums: “Hozier” in 2014, which peaked at No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 200 chart, and “Wasteland, Baby!” in 2019, which peaked at No. 1.

Four years after the release of “Wasteland, Baby!” Hozier began releasing music for “Unreal Unearth.” This March, he released “Eat Your Young,” an EP with three incredible tracks.

In May, he released an additional single, “Francesca.” 

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Hozier, real name Andrew Hozier-Byrne, has been teasing “Unknown” for a while. He posted a TikTok singing the song last September.

“Unknown / Nth” begins with a calm, agreeable guitar riff. The instrumental culminates with a couple strong, low chord strums and Hozier’s vocals begin. 

Hozier’s trademark gentle vocals layer over the already-established guitar riff. Artful lyrics combine with soulful singing to create an enchanting, beautiful verse. 

Echoed vocals and reverb enter as the song continues to build. As the second verse begins,  a quiet synth track plays in the background, creating an ethereal feel. 

The second verse blends into the refrain, barely recognizable as a chorus because little has changed sonically. 

Hozier sings one more verse, then, nearly three minutes into the track, the song explodes. 

A wall of harmonious sound hits listeners’ ears as Hozier sings a bridge. His belty, smooth vocals layer beautifully over the choir-like backing track. Hozier adds a few out-of-rhythm vocal moments — syncopations and triplets. It’s kind of magical. 

After a while, the sound quiets down and Hozier sings a final refrain over the now-familiar guitar riff. The song fades out with the riff and a quiet synth track.

Though “Unknown / Nth” doesn’t quite follow the traditional pattern of verse, refrain, verse, refrain, bridge, refrain; it still provides a satisfying progression led by the near-constant underlying guitar riff. 

To be honest, this song has not wowed me as much as Hozier’s other recent releases, but that may just be because it’s simpler. Most of “Unknown / Nth” is only Hozier singing over his electric guitar — and the first three minutes of the song kind of blend together into one endless verse over the ever-repeating guitar riff.

I think Hozier has other songs that work better with this laid-back arrangement: “Cherry Wine – Live” and “Wasteland, Baby!” Both of these tracks center around acoustic guitar — as opposed to the electric guitar in “Unknown / Nth” — and I might even dare to say acoustic works better for this kind of song. 

Additionally, when I mentioned that the bridge felt magical — that’s something Hozier does a lot. He slams you with new sound during a bridge and it’s usually absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, just like the laid-back Hozier-with-a-guitar arrangement, this style of bridge is also something Hozier has done better in other tracks.

“Movement” is my favorite song by Hozier. It’s a masterpiece of production and lyricism and music theory, but it also has an incredible bridge. You get that same kind of thing, that wall of angelic sound, and it’s a million times better and stronger than what “Unknown / Nth” does. 

To be clear, I’m not saying “Unknown / Nth” is a bad track or that it’s not worth a listen. It’s beautiful in its own right and has as much Hozier magic as every other track he releases, but I am saying that he has done better in the past. 

Recent tracks like “All Things End” and “Francesca” absolutely blow “Unknown / Nth” out of the water. “Unknown / Nth” will fit in on the “Unreal Unearth” album — it’s artful enough and pretty enough to hold its ground — but the other tracks have blown me away and left my jaw dropped, while this one only made me politely smile. 

Regardless, I’m sure this track will grow on me, like every Hozier song does. The simplicity of the track is comforting in a way that I could see myself — and others — growing to appreciate. I can see myself getting in my car after an eight hour shift and needing something simple and pretty to put on — and choosing this song. 

Hozier will come to Huntington Bank Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois, on Sept. 12 as part of his Unreal Unearth Tour.


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