Poe’s new album, Haunted, has some friendly ghosts

In the greatest example of sibling collaboration since the Brothers Gibb, Poe devoted her song-writing skills to creating a soundtrack befitting her brother Mark Z. Danielewski’s book. A modern ghost story, House of Leaves is the manuscript to a fictional documentary about a house with supernatural powers.

From this font of inspiration comes the album, Haunted (Atlantic). With eerie spoken word and songs that incorporate themes and even passages from the book, Poe’s long-awaited sophomore release gives any reader the aural embodiment of House of Leaves’ dark atmosphere. Tracks such as 5 Minute Hallway and Exploration B add new dimensions to an already rich piece of contemporary literature.

Fans and the illiterate alike will be happy to know that reading House of Leaves is not required to appreciate Poe’s new release. The album certainly is capable of standing on its own two feet, and listeners not familiar with Danielewski’s work are not left out in the cold. Even Poe seems unwilling to commit to the rock clich? of a concept album, and she has no qualms about veering away from the theme.

Here is where her craftsmanship mostly comes to light. Without interrupting the record’s flow, she introduces an incredible variety of styles – a collage of genres fit seamlessly together in a thrilling sequence of ups and downs. Although the samples from classic horror films and the overzealous use of a reverb chamber keep you in the dark, the sun does shine in this album. Up-tempo tracks such as Not a Virgin and Walk the Walk are so upbeat that listeners get the impression this record is actually more positive than her first.

Fans of Poe’s debut, Hello, will not be let down. While Hello has a much tighter, rock-band type of sound, Haunted, with its production-shine and studio sound, still features the raw grace of Poe’s vocals. Her subtle lyrical wit remains, and she is given more room to show off her talent. Poe has fallen into the realm of Bjork – recognized as an individual artist, not just a band’s lead singer.

Hello was released in 1995, and since then Poe has released just one EP, featuring several of the songs also appearing on the new album. It’s no surprise that she had enough material to make Haunted span well over an hour. With 17 tracks, the album’s only failure is that there are too many memorable tracks. By the time the CD stops, the opening songs are a distant memory. Repeat listens are a must, and there is little chance that these songs will get stale any time soon. But at least this will help make the next five-year wait for a new Poe album a little easier.

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