Van Hunt: Use in Case of Emergency

Use in Case of Emergency maintains that Van Hunt brings a quality to modern music that is not contrived. Just have a fire extinguisher nearby if things get too hot.

Van Hunt

Use in Case of Emergency

US Release Date: 2009-05-08
UK Release Date: 2009-05-08

Van Hunt is in between projects at the moment, and it is to our benefit. While Hunt toils in his laboratory, that gap between recordings has delivered an 11-song collection of tracks from his vault, Use in Case of Emergency. Released through his website,, the virtual album revisits the past 15 years or so of Hunt's many muses. Some songs are ideas Hunt sketched out for other artists, some are original conceptions of songs before the record company (Capitol) interceded, and others are simply dusted off tracks that further exemplify how Hunt's greatness is rooted in the unpredictable. No two tracks are alike, even when they share the same lyrics.

Among the most prolific musicians a recording studio has ever known, Van Hunt's archive is brimming with unreleased material. Use in Case of Emergency summarizes the different compass points Hunt explored before and after the release of his 2002 self-titled debut through 2006's On the Jungle Floor. (These pages have already covered the abysmal fact that his finest work, Popular (2008), still remains unreleased after a falling out with Blue Note.)

What listeners hear on this release is a musician breaking out of preconceived styles. Though there are obvious elements of R&B in Hunt's music, it is foolhardy to describe him as an R&B artist exclusively, as music executives and music fans alike are wont to do. Use in Case of Emergency offers compelling evidence to the contrary. "Life of a former rock star looks good on me", Hunt sang on "N the Southern Shade" (a track off Popular). On "Man of the Year", Hunt is that rock star. A precursor to "Hot Stage Lights", a crowd favorite at Hunt's concerts, "Man of the Year" is the hard rock cousin to the funkified version that ultimately appeared on his second album, On the Jungle Floor.

In its unbridled form, "Man of the Year" boats a sinister chord progression that anchors Hunt's tale of worship and seduction. A serpentine guitar riff connects the verses before a bridge takes the song on a brief interstellar detour to a nebula of spacey funk. The rawness of the track, to these ears, is a perfect conduit for the lyrics, which are far from bashful!

The polar opposite of the playful pomp that dresses "Man of the Year" is "Hidden Charm". If there's a reason to add Use in Case of Emergency to a music collection, it is because of this song. Embroidered with a serene urging, the lyrics are quite possibly the most poetic Hunt has ever committed to melody. That melody lingers in the mind like a good dream. Though certainly open to other interpretations, "Hidden Charm" encapsulates the brave, bold, and sometimes uncertain journey that artists and musicians embark on when they pursue their life's vocation. Hunt sings, "Our lady of fortune and fame / Maybe your baby or just an elusive mermaid / It's time to make a move toward her way / Use your personality to block her getaway". There's reward in persisting, in spite of the mirages that obscure truth and confound a sense of self. Written well before his own solo career took flight, "Hidden Charm" illustrates Hunt's intuition about fame just before it devolves into a sycophantic adoration (similarly, he revealed his insight about popularity on the sublime "Popular").

For new listeners, Use in Case of Emergency is by no means a conventional entree to the music of Van Hunt. Either of his first two albums provides a more consistent and solid introduction. If anything, this set is a generous offering to those who have already been turned onto his music and want to delve a little deeper towards detecting his creative process at work. Hearing how an idea or theme is manifested in different variations promises to raise an eyebrow or two. Note how "Anything (To Get Your Attention)", a track from Van Hunt is reworked two distinct ways on Use in Case of Emergency ("ATTENTION!" and "N.E.Thing2getura10chin"). Van Hunt straddles many appeals and incorporates just as many back into his music.

Use in Case of Emergency maintains that Van Hunt brings a quality to modern music that is not contrived. It is authentically his. Hunt abides by his own standards, which are often conflict with the standards the music industry sets for artists. He has no need to funnel his vision through whatever producer is currently in demand when he has coffers of his own ideas to express. Now that he is not tethered to a major record label, listeners will hear the most undiluted iterations of Van Hunt's talent and realize why he is important for our musical health. Use in Case of Emergency is his first gift in the new paradigm he has created for himself. Just have a fire extinguisher nearby if things get too hot.





How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?


The 50 Best Songs of 2007

Journey back 13 years to a stellar year for Rihanna, M.I.A., Arcade Fire, and Kanye West. From hip-hop to indie rock and everywhere in between, PopMatters picks the best 50 songs of 2007.


'Modern' Is the Pinnacle of Post-Comeback Buzzcocks' Records

Presented as part of the new Buzzcocks' box-set, Sell You Everything, Modern showed a band that wasn't interested in just repeating itself or playing to nostalgia.


​Nearly 50 and Nearly Unplugged: 'ChangesNowBowie' Is a Glimpse Into a Brilliant Mind

Nine tracks, recorded by the BBC in 1996 show David Bowie in a relaxed and playful mood. ChangesNowBowie is a glimpse into a brilliant mind.


Reaching for the Sky: An Interview with Singer-Songwriter Bruce Sudano

How did Bruce Sudano become a superhero? PopMatters has the answer as Sudano celebrates the release of Spirals and reflects on his career from Brooklyn Dreams to Broadway.


Inventions Conjure Mystery and Hope with the Intensely Creative 'Continuous Portrait'

Instrumental duo Matthew Robert Cooper (Eluvium) and Mark T. Smith (Explosions in the Sky) release their first album in five years as Inventions. Continuous Portrait is both sonically thrilling and oddly soothing.


Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch Are 'Live at the Village Vanguard' to Raise Money for Musicians

Esperanza Spalding and Fred Hersch release a live recording from a 2018 show to raise money for a good cause: other jazz musicians.


Lady Gaga's 'Chromatica' Hides Its True Intentions Behind Dancefloor Exuberance

Lady Gaga's Chromatica is the most lively and consistent record she's made since Born This Way, embracing everything great about her dance-pop early days and giving it a fresh twist.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Street Art As Sprayed Solidarity: Global Corona Graffiti

COVID-19-related street art functions as a vehicle for political critique and social engagement. It offers a form of global solidarity in a time of crisis.


Gretchen Peters Honors Mickey Newbury With "The Sailor" and New Album (premiere + interview)

Gretchen Peters' latest album, The Night You Wrote That Song: The Songs of Mickey Newbury, celebrates one of American songwriting's most underappreciated artists. Hear Peters' new single "The Sailor" as she talks about her latest project.


Okkyung Lee Goes From Classical to Noise on the Stellar 'Yeo-Neun'

Cellist Okkyung Lee walks a fine line between classical and noise on the splendid, minimalist excursion Yeo-Neun.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.