Its been a while since we have decided an album is deserving of a review. This is worth it. Bat for Lashes aka Natasha Khan have had a turbulent past with critics, the industry and music fans alike. Bat for Lashes first two albums received distinctly different reactions. The debut album ‘Fur and Gold’ got a great reaction nominated for Brits and Mercury Prize awards. The second ‘Two Suns’ got a less than positive reaction. Critics claimed that Bat for Lashes “lost her way” and “lacked consistency” and “end of the road already”. Whilst the second album lived up to the difficult second album syndrome, some of the criticism was unfair and harsh.
So does ‘Haunted Man’ follow the perceived downward spiral or get back to the heights of ‘Fur and Gold’? Straightaway the title sent me thinking and pre-listen got me thinking how the album might pan out. Would it be a dark collection of tracks, maybe a bit of a haunting album along the lines of something Annie Lennox may have produced. Well hold that thought as Bat for Lashes has been compared to Lennox on more than one occasion.
In an assumed admission of guilt, Khan has said she wanted to spend more time on ‘Haunted Man’ indicating she was less than happy with the last offer. The extra work seems to be evident in this album, a much more accomplished album which answers a number of the criticisms directly, grabbing them by the neck and smacking them right between the eyes.
Title track ‘The Haunted Man’ provides a stripped back soundtrack with a bellowing infrequent bass that ticks away like the heartbeat of the track at the beginning. The vocal is soft, yet powerful full of tone and emotion. The military drum roll and distant singing after the first verse feels a little weird, particularly as it is so quiet. Khan‘s vocal changes after that and comes in with a slightly treated flavour and a bit quicker. For me that part overshadows her voice.
Other tracks such as ‘Laura’ make up for the weirdness in the title track. It probably isn’t new to most of you as its been doing the round on various sites over the web for the past few weeks. Its basic classic piano led sound track, completely compliments the vocal. This is a great soapbox to show off the stunning vocal ability of Bat for Lashes. Its one of those tracks that make you want to listen. Natasha‘s voice acts as one of the Sirens that lures you in to her tale.
The opening track ‘Lilies’ really gives the listener a sense of what is to come. A real slow and quiet open to the album brings the listener in, almost as if you are being sung a lullaby. Later on, the electro sound pops in to remind you what Bat for Lashes is all about. Some thought provoking lyrics such as “I was empty as a grave” adds to the complex stories unfolding across the album. But if the lyrics can be described as thought provoking, the music and vocal delivery is provocation for your hearing, stretching the senses further than most modern day artists can.
Sadly some of the lessons from ‘Two Suns’ don’t seem to have been learned. Tracks such as ‘Marilyn’ or ‘Rest Your Head’ seem out of sync with the rest of the album and can at best be described as experimental. However, they are rare blips on a good collection of material.
‘The Haunted Man’ (the album) is a great collection of music. It showcases Natasha Khan as a great singer/songwriter and gets you really thinking as a listener. It certainly provides a great response to some of her previous critics. A really good album that you should listen to.