Magnet (p.57) - "Newly independent, Hunt manages to turn in his most intense and provocative album yet, a stunning mix of prog, punk and soul that can challenge even the most jaded listener."
Audio Mixer: Melissa Mattey.
Recording information: The Santa Fe Tracking Station.
Photographer: Awful Gazelle.
Arranger: Van Hunt.
Whether the shelving of Popular was forced by finances, creative issues, or both, Van Hunt and Blue Note clearly did not make a good match. Hunt is an artist who needs free rein, or very close to it, not development like Norah Jones. He could have been handled like pianist Robert Glasper, as a niche artist, but maybe he was expected to have hits since he sings. As peculiar as Popular's stillbirth seemed -- there were advance copies and a release date -- it is difficult to picture the Blue Note logo on an album featuring a man howling "I wanna f*ck ya, baby" over hard drums and stabbing guitars. Three and a half years passed between Popular and this independent disc, Hunt's third official album. Hunt plays guitar, keyboards, drums, and works bass and drum synthesizers, but he also employs a steady lineup featuring Ruth Price (drums), Melissa Mattey (mostly percussion), and Peter Dyer (keyboards). In some ways, Hunt does here what he has always done. He mixes up forms of R&B and rock, bounces between and within the extremes of frisky funk and sparse ballads, and sings -- in a wide variety of modes -- purposeful and sometimes pointed lyrics that come across as off the cuff. However, this is not slick, smooth work by any means. Studio effects, including liberal use of reverb, are all over these songs, and they're appropriate. Some of the rhythms, combined with Hunt's looser-than-ever guitar, are flat-out nasty -- jagged, chunky, rumbling. This is a rare lean, focused album where the in-the-red moments are just as effective as the twilight ballads; "Watching You Go Crazy Is Driving Me Insane" is ferocious and melodic hardcore punk that lives up to its brilliant title, while "Moving Targets" is an impeccable bedroom ballad that sounds classic enough to inspire several remakes (which get clowned on principle). Hunt has outdone himself, and it's possible he's just getting started. ~ Andy Kellman