[10 September 2008]
The shivering guitar assault that opens Haunt’s sophomore effort, The Deep North, instantly announces an evolution in the sonic landscape traversed by frontman Matthew Hebert. Taking a step away from the burnished Americana of 2007’s As Blue as Your Dying Eyes, and his previous work both solo and with the late Ware River Club, Hebert and co-producer José Ayerve infuse this new set of songs with a more straight-forward and nervy rock sensibility.
Songs like “The Sea and the Soul” and “Sugar on the Edge” play deftly with dynamics. Yet for all of its forcefulness and punch, The Deep North is as lean, melodic, and considered as anything in Hebert’s catalog. Lean because the production is surprisingly uncluttered for all of its layers, melodic because ballads and rockers alike are driven primarily by Hebert’s distinctive rasp, and considered because “You Are Loved” and “Gone” are as smartly written as they are deeply felt. This is not music by or for the detached. On the standout “I Suppose”, Hebert growls “This is where the drunks go crashing to the ground / And I’ll go with ‘em / This where the hearts go rolling home / And I’ll go with ‘em,” preserving rock’s oft-forgotten sense of romantic abandon.