Jana Hunter had just started to shake off her "friend of Devendra" tag. Her sophomore release, There's No Home, sounded bluesy yet confident, with a professional sheen that suited her. Too bad then that this six-song EP collects demos, alternate takes and extra songs from those sessions, returning Hunter to the home-taped, casual ethos of Blank Unstaring Eyes of Doom. It’s a fairly slight undertaking, and, disappointingly, the three strongest cuts are watered down versions of already released songs.
Of the new songs, "A Goblin, A Goblin" is the best, the guitar picking regular and reassuring, with Hunter's violin lending mournful resonance. She spits out the words, rattling through talk-sung verses, then softening and sweetening for the self-harmonized choruses. There's not much of a melody here, and no memorable lyrics, but there is a palpable atmosphere, morbid, skewed and comfortable with its own creepiness. "Paint a Babe" is even more loosely structured, just a bit of picked guitar and Hunter's wavery voice dipping in and out of non-verbal sighs. She sounds exhausted. Her voice never rises much above a whisper, and she moves through the song in fits and starts, a clump of words, then a long pause, a flurry of guitars, then a stop. It's like the whole song is a battle with inertia, and she has to gather her energies just to drift ahead. "You Will Take It and Like It," the last of the new songs (and the only instrumental) is, by contrast, rather peaceful, all bent blue notes and flurried chords. It's an interval, though, not really a song. None of the three new cuts sound anywhere near essential.
The second half of the album is comprised of demo versions of "Ooh Huh" and "There's No Home" and an alternate acoustic take of "Oracle." They're all much stronger songs than the discarded tracks. Langurous as it is, "Ooh Huh" represents an uptick in energy, its melody delicate but instantly graspable, the kind of thing you can hear in your head after a listen or two. "There's No Home" has a similar heft and internal sense to it; Hunter's voice sounds ghostly over slow guitar strums, but not spent or strung out. It is with these tracks that you remember what Hunter brings to the table – an intense spirituality, an unapologetic eccentricity, a loose, unmediated but not unstructured approach to songwriting.
Carrion is intermittently enjoyable but not especially memorable. You get the sense that there's no real reason for it to exist, except to keep Hunter in front of her audience. None of the demos or alternate takes expand our understanding of There's No Home very much, and the extra tracks seem to have been left off the full-length for good reason.