Poe (not the writer) is the alias of singer and songwriter Anne Decatur Danielewski, who got the music world’s attention in 1995 with her debut album Hello, a solid modern rock record which established her as a force in female vocalists with attitude, bringing anger, emotion, and power to her music. Hello was critically acclaimed for Poe’s heady mix of rock, jazz, and even hip-hop, delivered with an edge and a keen proclivity for irony and literary references. Several singles from the album got play on MTV and the radio. It took five years for the followup to that record to arrive, and when it dropped in 2000, Haunted was a particularly intriguing listen, which makes it all the more unfortunate that due to label politics, Poe was never able to follow up on it.
At it’s core, Haunted is a ode to Poe’s father, the independent film director Tad Danielewski, who passed away seven years prior to the record’s release. Inspired by a box of recordings she found of her father, some going back decades, Poe elected to create music around them, employing quotes and ruminations from her father on life and society to bookend several of the album’s songs. The record also serves as a counterpart to the House of Leaves, the acclaimed novel written by her brother, Mark Danielewski, which came out the same year. That connection is how I was introduced to the artist and the album in the first place, as wayyyy back in college, as a curious and bright-eyed English major who was enamored with the written word and was driven to write the next great novel before the weight of the world crushed his spirits, I was fascinated with the book and it’s mind-bending approach in how it told its story. Haunted includes several references to House of Leaves, and the album itself is just as cryptic, mystifying, and at times creepy, as that book (which I recommend checking out…Yes, I recommend books also). Poe’s performances are really strong here, as she bends different genres and moods to her will and delivers powerful performances throughout.
“Control” is a fine example. I love how tempestuous and defiant it sounds. Poe lets you know right quick that you’re dealing with a queen, and here, she can absolutely destroy you. It’s a great listen, and I love the breakdown towards the end, where she ends her onslaught with a sampled whirlwind of words from her father scoffing at the concept imposing control on the universe. Nicely done.