From its first moments, Poe’s Haunted builds mood out of its own sparseness. Even when the album layers sounds, there’s a frightening intimacy in every moment. Poe does not shy away from facing down the darkness, sampling her own family member’s voices, including recordings of her father who died in 1993. As uncomfortable as it is beautiful, Haunted‘s intense personal nature is both disturbing and compelling. It is less an album than an experience.
The search for self saturates Haunted, from the tortured “Wild” to the unapologetic “Not A Virgin” to the impassioned “Could’ve Gone Mad”. In each song, Poe is trying to make sense of the total of her life, from her childhood memories (eerily represented by the voices of little girls), to the death of her father, to her current fears and vulnerabilities. Her messages are conveyed through her unique use of traditional instruments deconstructed through computers and then recombined to create a very atmospheric sound.
While with an album like Haunted, a lesser songwriter would fall into the traditional cliches of pain and sorrow, Poe is able to give her own unique spin to these elements lyrically. On the tough “Control”, she turns the tables on her opponent with lines like “While you busy destroying my life / What was half in me has become whole”. Despite the simplicity of the words in the unforgettable “Amazed”, Poe’s anguished delivery make lines like “I’m not really sure just what it is you do, but do it again” echo beautifully in the listener’s mind.
Like most albums that revolve around a concept, Haunted is preferably listened to all together in one sitting, and at over an hour, that’s sometimes a lot to ask. A few tracks don’t have much to say out of the context of the album, but all together, they merge into a touching and disquieting work. Few musicians are on the same level as Poe in terms of her bravery exposing and expressing her own personal fears. While it’s a bit obvious to say it, Haunted will haunt you.