Album of the Week: Bat for Lashes – The Haunted Man
Bat for Lashes – a.k.a. Natasha Khan – is back after a lengthy spell away for her third album after two massively successful, Mercury-nominated works.
Unlike debut Fur and Gold, follow-up Two Suns hasn’t endured half as well, with the half-baked mysticism and needless high concept detracting from the music, which in the large part was actually pretty bloody good.
It’s not a great surprise to find that The Haunted Man goes back to basics. Well, relatively speaking, if you want a true sense of basics, you need to go back to the minimalist instrumentation and production of Fur and Gold, but the stripped back electronica of the Haunted Man at least allows the songs to breathe without any distractions.
Hell, even the cover is stripped back, to jaw dropping effect, as you’ll doubtless have noted above. It’s grabbed the headlines, sure, but don’t let it pull you away from the music. You’ll have heard Laura, the emotive piano ballad that’s trailed The Haunted Man. Minimalist almost to the point where it’s acappella, it’s another character song (see also Daniel, Prescilla and fellow newie Marylin) and really rather beautiful.
Khan’s voice has always been magnificent and is again perfectly judged here – never overdone, like Florence and the Machine, a mysteriously more famous act, despite effectively being a substandard Bat for Lashes pastiche.
Over a sea of light, occasionally juddering beats and sparkling synths on opener Lilies, she’s understated but carries the song perfectly. All Your Gold picks up the pace a little, but if there’s a complaint to had, it’s actually that there isn’t enough variation here. Much of The Haunted Man could fit snugly on any radio station in the same way that Flossy does.
But the baroque, subtle songs of Bat for Lashes – such as the percussive Horses of the Sun or the genuinely haunting title track – have considerably more invention and less mawkish over-emoting per minute. Who cares if that makes their appeal more selective, Bat for Lashes is just about the best chart-troubling female act the UK has, and you can bet your ass she’s as comfortable with that as she is posing in the buff.