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Timothy Monger [allmusic.com]
The recipient of much hype and praise for his breakthrough single ''Take Me to Church,'' Ireland's Hozier does plenty to back it up on his self-titled debut LP. A soulful voice and a brooding mystique can get you a long way but fortunately, most of the material here is well-written enough to warrant a deeper look at the young artist many have labeled an old soul. Like fellow Irishman Van Morrison did decades before, Hozier (Andrew Hozier-Byrne) draws on the soul and R&B of Jackie Wilson and runs it through the mystery white-boy filter of Jeff Buckley, adding a touch of Bon Iver's rural indie aesthetic to mix into his own dark cocktail. Moodcraft and vibe are where Hozier is at his most effective and he hits his mark on the eerie, midnight-hour blues of ''Angel of Small Death & the Codeine Scene'' with its subtle layers of creepy choir boy and gospel vocals. It's the logical sequel to his equally haunting ''Take Me to Church,'' which leads off this set. Coming in at 53 minutes and 13 tracks, the record is probably a bit too lengthy. The album's best tracks, like the warm, laid-back ''Someone New'' and the grandiose shuffling of ''From Eden'' are all front loaded in the first half, while side two feels a bit weighed down with a few too many slow, contemplative pieces. When you're dealing with the kind of spells Hozier is casting, it's always best to leave them wanting more. Still, the dirge blues of ''It Will Come Back,'' with its dirty fiddle and electric guitar pairing, manages to rattle the church pews enough to help anchor the back half. In spite of its extra padding and occasional foibles, it's a strong debut and Hozier is far more commanding and convincing than so many other blues-inspired young turks lurking conspicuously in the alleyways of indiedom.