30 songs in 30 days: #6 – “Take Me to Church” (Hozier)

Day 6: A song that reminds you of somewhere

In the summer of 2015, SO and I took our second European vacation together. As with our first, we booked a group tour with a company that loaded you onto a comfortable, private coach bus and drove you through  tracts of Dutch farmland, German wine country and the Alps, stopping in cities including Munich, Venice, and Paris. Our group leader would pipe pop music of all sorts through the bus’s sound system, for better or worse, as one form of entertainment for those long rides between destinations. If I didn’t recognize the song, and SO and I weren’t chatting about something, I’d usually pop my earbuds in and listen to my own soundtrack. But two songs pricked my ears and kept me listening to the group leader’s playlist. One will appear further along in this blog series, so I’ll introduce it then. The other is “Take Me to Church” by Hozier.

Not at all typical for my musical tastes, “Take Me to Church” is a haunting tale of relishing forbidden love while shunning hate and oppression. Of course, I didn’t realize the fine points of the song’s message as we rolled across Europe. I was simply mesmerized by the profound soulfulness and clarity of this gangly young Irishman’s voice as he crooned over gong-like percussion, forlorn piano, and spine-tingling backing vocals. Later, when I saw the music video and learned more about the lyrics and inspiration for the song, I appreciated even more the poignancy of its purpose. But the first reaction I’ll have whenever I hear “Take Me to Church” is the memory of slate-gray clouds hovering over the Swiss and Italian Alps as we roll along highways, passing hillside medieval castles and churches in the distance. In my opinion, that mental image fits the bittersweet bleakness of Hozier’s debut perfectly.

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