Much like the subject matter of her namesake, Poe has decided to focus her creative energies on the dead, mysterious and supernatural.
“Haunted,” the singer/songwriter’s follow-up to her 1995 gold album “Hello,” finds Poe not only confronting personal issues and events in her life, but also cultivating a musical style that often reaches beyond the eclectic and into the unpredictable.
Horror movie fans will recognize the album’s title track as the closing song in the summer hit “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2,” but the album is more than just a vehicle for a chart-topping song. While not a flawless set, “Haunted” offers music of diverse, rich textures in a variety of styles.
The first half of the album showcases some of Poe’s finest compositions. Following the title track, a majestic piece that alternates between seductive creepiness and graceful beauty, comes “Control,” a display of Poe at her most intense both vocally and lyrically. “While you were looking the other way/ while you had your eyes closed/ while you were selling your soul/ while you were tearing a hole in me, I was taking control.” These pieces are extremely well balanced musically and successfully echo the feelings of disorientation and frustration that the album title suggests.
Another compelling piece early in the album is the funky dance tune “Walk the Walk,” which is a departure from the styles of the earlier tracks and has all the elements of a hit song. The tune is fast-paced, with catchy guitars and a singable street lingo style in which Poe asks, “Hey everybody, when you walk the walk/ you gotta back it all up, can you talk the talk?” Although obviously meant to be a fun radio song, the tune confirms Poe’s openness to musical diversity and exploration.
The album is not up to the same standard the rest of the way. A number of songs during the course of the album lack the strong musical and lyrical foundation built earlier. Songs such as “Not a Virgin” and “Lemon Meringue” seem to belie a lack of depth in their titles. Despite the strength of acoustic guitar-based folk tunes such as “5 and 1/2 Minute Hallway” and the elegant “Spanish Doll,” some of the material seems to hark back to earlier songs. By the time one gets to “Amazed,” one can’t help but ask, “Haven’t I heard this one already?”
Regardless, Poe still makes the album an adventure, both musically and psychologically. “Haunted” is a concept album in which Poe deals with the death of her father and their relationship by sampling portions of a recorded speech given by her father to create a narrative throughout the album. The result is a number of tracks that are not music, but rather surreal conversations between the living and dead, ghost-like voices and eerie phone recordings. While contributing significantly to the ambiance of the album’s theme, Poe’s concept generally fails to connect with the subject matter within the standard songs.
Overall, “Haunted” is a noble experiment with a number of very strong songs that are certainly enough to make the album better than average. Like a relationship with one’s family, the album is not perfect, but is nevertheless something Poe’s father would have been proud of.