July 3, 2014
Think Indie / Charming Martyr (BMI)
Poe is a name that is undeniably associated with the surroundings of nineteenth century American literature. Edgar Allan Poe’s dark romanticism with themes of macabre, death and mystery always attempts to focus onto having a certain effect on the beholder. This also holds true for the modern Poe we are discussing today.
David Poe is an accomplished artist with roots in midwest of the United States. He has written and composed a multitude of songs and musical arrangements. Through the years he released three previous studio albums himself and contributed to the work of other established acts such as Duncan Sheik, Daryll Hall, Grace Potter, Thomas Dybdahl, Curtis Stigers and Oh Land. He also contributes his art to television, Broadway plays and modern dance. He does all this with a great deal of success with no obvious need to take the limelight.
Poe seems content to reach an audience of true supporters without necessarily seeking out the masses. With this approach, Poe manages to create the art he loves and believes in and this comes across magnificently. On his self-titled debut he serves up roughly hewn gems like Blue Glass Fall and Apartment. On his sophomore attempt “The Late Album” the singer/songwriter (though this term should be loosely applied to Poe, as his music reaches beyond the boundaries of this vaguely defined label) comes off more polished with the restrained Drifter which, in another era, would’ve become a pop classic, the artsy The Late Song (Je Ne Suis Pas Mort) and the literary, gritty testimony to a changing entertainment world in Deathwatch For A Living Legend.
Poe’s growth continues as he releases his next album, “Love is Red”. This is basically an in-studio live album. The beauty of this album is that it doesn’t rely on individual songs. It presents as a whole, with a vibe that is both solemn and vibrant, courtesy of the old bunker in Berlin in which it was recorded. If there’s one song I’d have to pick to symbolize this it’d be Wilderness.
The artist David Poe, who experimented with pop, rock, electronic, jazz and other influences fused things together in a way that displayed his personal convictions (I would refer you to the criticism of political and military actions in Gun For A Mouth, which Poe debuted live in 2003) and an artistic believability towards himself and his listeners. But since the release of “Love is Red” in 2005, Poe turned his attention to other projects and expanded into other media. He contributed to Broadway projects (Whisper House), motion pictures (Harvest, Shadowland) and scored two dance productions (The Copier, Shadowland) as well as produced records for established names in popular music (Regina Spector, Jenifer Jackson & The Brendan Hines). A studio album of his own, however, didn’t materialize until just recently.
David Poe returns with “God & The Girl” which instantly delivers on the promise left by his earlier work. The untamed and brazen yet wildly talented musician has transformed into a more experienced, balanced artist who learned to focus his talent into music that delivers in message, meaning and emotion. On this new album, Poe manages to connect to the listener with the simplicity of essentials. It instantly starts with the sweet Honey Moon where Poe’s soft and intimate vocals speak directly to everyone who’s ever felt romantic love. The penultimate verse perfectly delivers the message of that emotion.
Poe doesn’t strike gold with every song on the album but he manages to draw you in regardless. Lonely Like Me has a certain vintage feel to it with the plucking of the strings and the twangy arrangement. Let There Be No Longing sends a simple but powerful message and lyrically, to me, the strength lies in the final line: “Long for vengeance/long for mercy/not the memory of what could not be.”
Tafetta serves as a little break as it doesn’t rely on a gentle, melodic line but a more rhythmic and offbeat arrangement that glimpses back to some of Poe’s older work and could also draw a comparison to some of the work of his friend and contemporary, Duncan Sheik. Following with Wild One, Poe instantly hits his sweet spot. To me, this song connects the familiar sound I remember from the debut and “The Late Album” with the more mature songwriting this new album provides us with. The slight haunting undertone contrasted by that jangly guitar, topped off by slightly philosophical lyrics like “strangers become friends/it changes, breaks and bends/can we make amends/or is this the end?” is a package that ultimately represents why David Poe belongs to the highest standard of modern songwriters.
On When I Fly, Poe reaches back to the familiar sound from his earlier work. Maybe a little more than I had hoped because it sounds like could’ve come straight off The Late Album. And just when I thought the remainder of the album was going to drift off into a musical arrangement trip down memory lane, Poe shows his growth and added experience instantaneously. World Above doesn’t sound like anything he’s released before. Absolute restraint emphasizes the wondering and solemnity that fills the song that covers big questions of belief and existence. Here’s where Poe shows he doesn’t just make music but that his words and arrangements have meaning and substance.
Remember tells the story of heartbreak but at the same time it serves as a metaphor of how hard it is to let things go and how much it hurts to lose something or someone that once consumed such an important part of your life. Poe delivers this with vigor and a hidden urgency that emphasizes the message of the lyrics tenfold. Poe continues with the same theme in Thank You, though the tone is more spiteful and the rhythm has a latin-inspired touch to it that reminds me of creative twists by Santana or Calexico. Sometimes songs overpower you or grab you by the throat in the first second. That didn’t happen for me, but from the first time I listened to this song I was instantly intrigued. And I still am.
Remember the early 70s? When country & western, folk and rock & roll were all still alive in all its glory. That’s what The Devil reminds me of. The lyrics are relatively simple and straightforward. The melody is subtle and the whole thing is topped off with that typical timbre that makes the folk songs of that time sound so iconic. The album ends with a cloudy song titled These Are The Days that once again bridges Poe’s older sound with the more experienced person and artist he has become through the years. And he ends the album in style by sending us a message that we all journey through this life searching for the way that befits us: “Raise a glass to the past and to the soldiers/and faded friends and happy ends and to the old/may we all live as long as we like/may we all be as strong as the wine.”
“The God & The Girl” bridges a gap of almost 10 years. It is instantly familiar to those who were drawn in by David Poe’s older work but also stands as a strong testament to the experiences and growth Poe endured in these times. There’s a certain balance and, dare I say, quiescence to this album that ties things together. There’s no Blue Glass Fall or The Drifter on this album that has that direct pop sensibility though I could definitely hear songs like Honey Moon, When I Fly and The Devil on the radio and maybe even Thank You could even be a dark horse in that department.
Fans of the artistic singer/songwriter genre will heartily embrace this new album, while many other people who will likely never even hear of this release. This is a shame and I hope music aficionados and radio professionals alike are going to pick up on this album because it shows the artistry and uniqueness of a worthy singer/songwriter. It is likely the most crowded genre in all of music because anyone with a guitar or piano is pigeonholed in this incredibly vague section of popular music. Therefore many talented people are getting snowed under by the sheer mass of releases in this so-called genre. David Poe shouldn’t be restricted to this genre or many others should not be shoved into this corner of popular music because it takes away from the uniqueness and meaningfulness of this artist and his music.