Poe - Haunted

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FEI/Atlantic 83362-2
Pop / Dance

Like a zillion other pop divas on a jillion other discs, Annie Danielewski, bka Poe, has a bevy of hooks, synths, beats and bravura backing her up on Haunted. What set her and this sophomore opus apart are her own considerable creative intelligence and that rarest of qualities among the drumkit-ens of today's electronica: pure, simple soul.

To give her art its due first - this is a unique work, to my knowledge - a double concept album. Inspired first by the ghostly voice of her departed father on several rediscovered audiotapes, it is also a companion piece to brother Mark Danielewski's mindwarp novel, House of Leaves, released earlier the same year.

(That book is quite a work in itself; sometimes gritty, sometimes delirious, and occasionally maddening, its central and most coherent tale among many overlapping ones is that of a completely original kind of haunted house, which is both the setting and the silently malevolent character that does the haunting. As such, the house becomes the perfect conceit for the failing love between its married owners, on whose mutual malice it feeds, and to whom it presents an ingeniously palpable version of the challenge all unhappily married people face.)

In conversation with her father's ghost, Poe fills the album with interstitial sonic episodes, short tracks and sound effects that convey the range of powerful emotions brought up in her endeavor, employing child actors to speak her own girlhood lines, her brother playing himself, and a panoply of noises. She writes in her liner notes, "Finally I began sampling him. It was an eerie process. Had I resurrected a ghost? In some ways I had."

This is a lot of thematic weight for one album to support, even one that (counting the "Hey Pretty" reprise featuring brother Mark reading a passage from his novel in substitution for verses) clocks in at over 74 minutes - especially considering that most of the actual songs are about love, sex and strutting one's stuff to the beat of one's own drum. But Haunted delivers. Nothing is as groovy in any age, in any medium, as a woman who knows she's sexy, and Poe's got it in spades: "Hey Pretty" and "Not A Virgin" are some of the most unabashedly, respectably horny tunes this side of Liz Phair (or since "Angry Johnny"'s "I wanna blow you… away" refrain from Poe's first CD).

Poe address her father's memory only obliquely until the last lyric of the penultimate song, after which the concluding, tender "If You Were Here" deals with it directly and quietly, with a noticeable-by-comparison absence of sound effects or spookiness - much like the denouement of House of Leaves. The final girl-voiced "It's okay; you can go now" is a loving farewell, but it also sounds like a calm, knowing version of the exorcism alluded to in the opening song ("Come here! / No I won't say please / One more look at the ghost before I'm gonna make him leave").

None of this would matter much, of course, if the music failed to satisfy. The production is lush, and the beats (especially in the title track) are irresistible. "Amazed" is a great melody, to boot, and throughout are cool lyrical and compositional touches like "Hold on, you gotta wait just a minute / See, the cookie jar got my hand caught in it" from "Lemon Meringue" and the rapidfire rap near the conclusion of "Walk the Walk."

Poe's debut, Hello, is a worthy effort as well (soul will out, of course), but Haunted is such a leap beyond that album in its sophistication and significance that it's almost difficult to think of the two as connected. This is a remarkable, multilayered work, almost criminally overlooked in the history of modern rock.
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Recent Poe Work

Just a little bit more on Poe.

She's recently worked with Rhys Fulber on his solo project Conjure One. Rhys is formerly of Delirium/Frontline Assembly/Intermix/Synethesia/Noise Unit/Will........ (for those who do not know Industrial/Techo/Electronica)

Conjure One is electronic in the vein of the latest Delirium disk (not the etherial Kristy Thirsk type). Poe provided vocals for a portion of the disk that is currently released and is, if I'm not correct, also featured on the new disk that is scheduled to be released in late August 2005 (I'm looking forward to buying it).
Good to know, Kruppy - thanks for the info. I've always wanted to catch Poe in concert; the only tour on which she ever came near me was her opening for Depeche Mode, and I wasn't going to pay that much for the opening act when I didn't love the headliner. Maybe sometime soon? It's been 5 years, which is how long it took her between her 2 previous albums.