Harley Poe - Lost and Losing It (Cover Artwork)

Harley Poe

Lost and Losing It (2017)

Harley Poe

This new Harley Poe album really caught me by surprise: not just because the band hadn’t extensively advertised its release, but also because in October of 2015, less than just two years prior to its release, they played their last show on Halloween night. The timing of said show is fitting if you are aware at all of Harley Poe’s shtick: play folk punk with a horror twist (combo that the group actually pulls off incredibly well).

Harley Poe’s minimalistic instrumentation and organic aesthetic have always allowed them to pull of some truly creepy production on some of their past efforts. In addition, frontman, Joe Whiteman, writes some of the most deranged lyrics in the genre, which stick out like sore thumbs, against the overwhelmingly soft instrumentation. Though the horror aspect Lost and Losing It is still very present, Whiteman has stated that many of the lyrics were inspired by his recent divorce, which is referenced at some point or another on nearly every track here.

Lost and Losing It’s tracklisting consists of just 11 songs, but their runtimes total to just over 50 minutes. While tracks like “Lost Soul” and “We’re All Human” justify their runtimes with more dynamic structures, cuts such as “Persevere” and “Talk Back” are a bit more lacking in structural diversity and stick to similar progressions. The former of these, however, I’ll give a pass, as it is excellently written and a fitting introduction to the band’s sonic and lyrical style for anyone who isn’t already familiar with it. Conceptually, “Persevere”’s message isn’t all too special: “don’t give up”. But presentation is what sets many of Harley Poe’s otherwise bland, played-out subject matters apart. Giving examples such as finding your dog dead at the end of the yard as something to just power through, “Persevere” turns an otherwise cheesy subject matter into a perverse, but even more intriguing, listen.

The juxtaposition of somewhat innocent base layers with insanely dark and depressing imagery has always been what made Harley Poe so compelling. For example, the bright and happy background vocals and infectiously cheery piano arpeggios on “I Wanna Die” make it impossible to not smile and nod along as Whitehead proclaims his death wish and self worthlessness.

“Demons” was a track midway through that caught my attention as the real core of the evil that this album feeds off of. From the bouncing shuffle of the guitars that kick off the song, to the haunting children singing in the background, to the Whiteman’s whispered vocals which intensify across the first verse, “Demons” really captures a pretty standard haunting sound, but is a nice change of in the context of the track listing.

Finally, I’d just like to get a word in about the closer, “Without Your Love”. After “We’re All Human”, “Without Your Love” is the longest track on this project and it’s a fantastic note to go out on. I’d say it’s likely that there won’t be an album this year with a better finale than Lost and Losing It. While fitting the overall feel of the record up to this point, this track really hits hard and consists of a great raw passion. If this does end up being Harley Poe’s last album, this is more than a fitting swan song.

Lost and Losing It is a very well written release with a carefully crafted and and additively immersive atmosphere that keeps calling me back for more. With every listen, there’s something new and interesting to find here. If you're unfamiliar with the band, I'd highly recommend visiting 2012’s Satan, Sex and No Regrets, but this album is not much less of a proper showcase of the group's proficiency in songwriting, performance and production.