Last night I turned on NPR while I was in the car, and I heard this amazingly dark and crystalline song called “Hunter.” It was the perfect soundtrack for driving at night on a twisting, poorly-lit road whose utter blackness barely seemed to be affected by the headlights.
The lyrics aren’t overly complicated or layered in and of themselves, though they are sinister, but the delivery is moody, complex, and harrowing. The way she sings the word “I,” and the repetitions of the word itself, key us in to the selfishness of the love she is describing; this, by itself undercuts and darkens the following “just want you by my side.” The gradual easing into darkness is followed by the shocking revelation that she will not let her lover “run and hide,” that she will “shoot [him] like a hunter” before allowing that to happen. Her harmonies suggest an inner contradiction: caring love seems to be represented by her higher registers while obsessive and damaging love is captured by the lower, somewhat dissonant registers. What is refreshing is that she does not grapple with the contradiction and is downright unapologetic about it. The orchestration and the key changes suggest depth and vastness while building upon the sense of a beauty that is irresistible but destructive. The love described here is the soul-destroying and yet timeless type of love that is generally the purview of male artists. The accompanying video is likewise deceptively simple as nothing “happens.” And yet it weaves a dense braid of images, of sublime vistas (sublime in the Romantic, terrifying sense), of snakes, of body parts among rocks, and of the singer herself, standing at a distance. She does not have to wear anything revealing to assert her power, and in fact she looks like a Victorian in mourning, nor does she have to do anything but just stand still, but she seems to derive power from the landscape, becoming an elemental force like the ocean, the trees, and the boulders that are her backdrops and foregrounds. She is absolutely a siren, and I am heartened that there are artists like her, artists who aren’t afraid to expose themselves instead of wrapping themselves in candied, major-scale fluff that reveals everything (skin, sexual appetites, etc) as a means of revealing absolutely nothing worth noting.