Sunday, 20 January 2013

Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man

Album Review I wrote back in November for Intuition-Online and forgot to post here for posterity!
More to come in the upcoming issue....

The mythological difficult third album has indeed been a challenge for Natasha Khann who says during its dark gestation she, "felt like I was never going to be able to write a song again". Stuck in her flat in Brighton, she felt lonely, lost and panicked about having writers block. She sought ways to distract herself, trying to invest her energy in non-musical endeavours though even this approach seemed frustrated for a while until a friend suggested she did unpaid gardening work at idyllic Bloomsbury-set country retreat in Charleston, East Sussex. Amongst the dahlias and the grounding of earth work, seedling inspiration stirred once more for Natasha.
It is fitting then that the album bursts into bloom with the opening track Lilies, a familiar Two Suns-esque Bat for Lashes sound; psychedelic, transcendental and ethereal climbing vocals breaking into a warm, rounded chorus of drums. It’s all graves and prayers and scented lilies but the relief that breaks through in the penultimate verse ‘Thank God I’m alive’, feels jubilant. Exactly the chorus you might expect from a talented singer/song writer who has returned from staring down the barrel of writers block, having seriously confronted the possibility of a life without music.
There are more blooming flowers and abundant gardens saving Natasha in Horses of the Sun and more lyrical affirmations of being alive. The catchy, victorious chorus, ‘You and me we’re wanted on the run, busting out the heavens like the horses of the sun’, does pretty much what it says on the tin, acting like a burst of hot musical sunshine breaking through clouds.
A more pop-friendly sound can be found in All Your Gold, the next single from the album released 29th October; an upbeat, edgy tune about never falling in love with Mr Nice, “Cos you’re a good man, I keep telling myself to just let go…someone from the past, I let him take all my gold, and hurt me so bad, and now for you I have nothing left”. Similarly the success of the song-writing collaboration with Justin Parker (who previously worked with Lana del Rey) produced the popular piano ballad Laura, the first single from the album.
It’s not all positive affirmations about life and flowers though. There are darker, more brooding songs on the album such as Deep Sea Diver. An earthy heartbeat thud underpins the song, lightened by icy rain drops of a piano thaw. Winter Fields begins haunting and melancholic, capturing a childish thrill and fright of freedom found in a changed snowy landscape, when the known becomes unfamiliar and special.
Overall Haunted Man is an album about place and journey, going on the latter and gaining a deeper sense of the former. The album is confident and energetic and bodes well for the live performance of Bat for Lashes on 2nd November at Anson Rooms in Bristol, which I am increasingly excited about going to see….watch this space for a future review of the gig.

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