Bat For Lashes, aka English singer and songwriter Natasha Khan, has released a new album of occasionally orchestral 11-song as a follow up to her 2009’s Two Suns. After three long years of fighting her musical block, Khan has found inspiration again in watching films, drawing and painting and her new creative efforts led to The Haunted Man. Once the inspiration started flowing, Khan was unstoppable in her grueling work and the result can speak for itself.
Will Hermes wrote for Rolling Stone that “Natasha Khan’s sexiest, spookiest LP starts with its cover: the naked singer shouldering a crumpled, naked man. The emotional metaphor seems familiar to her” and he is absolutely right. The Haunted Man thrives with emotions in Bat For Lashes’ unique and quirky way. It’s a dramatic effort in which Khan’s vocal presence is stronger than ever. The title track stands as proof of her huge vocal abilities, even if she has incorporated a men’s choir.
The 32-year-old singer pops in and up a variety of emotions and feelings that she is not ashamed of or embarrassed about. “I was empty as a grave,” she sings on the glacial and icy “Lilies”, before feeling the need to burst out of joy, happiness and gratitude. “Thank God I’m alive!” she exclaims in her happy-ever-after cry, proving once more her impressive vocal abilities. Her vocal delivery is indubitably more confident and stronger. “Marilyn,” also a song of cinematic inspirations like “Lillies,” is an interesting combination of pop, electronic and a hint of psychedelic approach, spookiness and fantasy.
The single “Laura” is probably the best track of this album. Khan collaborated with Justin Parker (who has worked with Lana del Rey on “Video Games”) in what she called “a really good risk taking experience” and the result was extraordinary. The song features a full orchestra, the synths and percussive richness makes it resemble more to a heart-wrenching piano ballad and the lyrics comprise Khan’s lament of the title character’s extended adolescence that comes as a sobering reality check. She sings about the party life of Laura’s peers, perhaps intentionally contrasting with Bat For Lashes’ reality, as Khan has moved on in life. “Laura” is a powerful song and also a brilliant statement of the fact that the young singer has drifted away from the mysticism of her last records.
“Oh Yeah,” an intense and sensual song she debuted live in Sydney before the vocals were even finished, seems to be rather terrestrial than otherworldly. It’s a song about light conquering dark and her vocal straightforwardness is undeniable. “All Your Gold”, “A Wall” and “Horses of the Sun” that enlists the aid of Portishead’s Adrian Utley, are also amazing, making the rest of the tracks drab.
In fact, the entire album seems to bear the fingerprint of kaleidoscopic sounds, emotions and picturesque effects. It’s like Bat For Lashes comes from out of space, from a world unseen and unreachable for mortals being like us, to play with our senses, feelings and perception of reality. The Haunted Man will not only pierce through your ears, but it will pervade every cell in your body. In other words, The Haunted Man will haunt you too, like a dream or like a nightmare, it’s up to you.
Released 12 October 2012
Recorded 2010-12; Abbey Road Studios, London
Genre Indie pop, dream pop, baroque pop, folktronica, synthpop, art rock
Producer Dan Carey, Rob Ellis, Natasha Khan, David Kosten