Poe, Haunted

Haunted Poe

 

When Haunted was released in the unexpected great year for music, 2000, I don’t know if anyone knew quite how to process it (and by anyone, I mean the dozen or so people that heard it – she hasn’t released anything since).  Her debut, 1996’s Hello, was fine, produced an alright minor hit called “Angry Johnny” whose joke of a chorus was that it barely sounded salacious as she sang, poutily, “I want to blow you… away,” but the record remained completely dismissible.  So with Haunted, we first had to adjust to the idea that Poe had made a terrific, enormous leap as an artist, and then we had to figure out the woman had made a ferociously invasive and fascinating concept record.  Haunted opens with the phrase “Thought you should know, Daddy died today,” and turns the record into her experiment in talking with his ghost.  She made the album alone on her computer splicing in lost sound clips from his lectures as a professor, and it’s important to note the songs really are great dialogue – they’re epitaphs from a daughter fiercely clinging to independence and struggling to deal with feelings of loss, hopelessness, defiance, and anger toward the death of a father she never quite knew.  It’s also the sound of reconnecting to her mother, and hocking her brother’s book, House of Leaves (most notoriously in the terrific single “Hey Pretty,” the remix of which splices in the author reading part of it over the verses).  Since the sound is so idiosyncratic and made in such isolation – it sounds not like an electronic record, not quite like a pop record, and definitely doesn’t sound like a band of any kind – it could’ve been a disaster of a record, but Poe’s passion is a force unto itself.  She’s got the pipes of a soul singer (as evident in “Spanish Doll”), the defiance of a punk princess (“Not a Virgin,” “Walk the Walk”), and the tenacity of a pop market junkie (“Lemon Meringue,” “5 ½ Minute Hallway”).  Together, it’s a remarkable novel of songs that creates a life far more than it elucidates a death.

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