Bat For Lashes
The Haunted Man
Oct 19, 2012 Web Exclusive
Natasha Khan, on the cover of her third Bat For Lashes album, stands nude save for a necklace, a naked man draped over her shoulders as if he were a feather boa. As far as artists posing nude for album art goes, it's pretty tasteful—she's in more decent repose than John and Yoko on the cover of Two Virgins, yet it feels more revealing than Prince's Lovesexy—with the nude man-boa covering her possibly controversial bits, and vice versa. The cover's in stark contrast to her past albums—where she was outfitted in a pair of flashy, mystical costumes—but so is the music located therein. Stripped down of any excessive ornamentation, it's the most raw incarnation of Bat For Lashes we've heard yet.
Khan's voice is front and center throughout The Haunted Man. From the beginning, it's the passion in her vocals that drives the record, seemingly less concerned this time around with crafting the atmospheric dreamworlds of her past work and more in finding some emotional truth in the simple compositions. "Thank God I'm alive," she belts out over a swirl of gentle guitar reverb in "Lilies," and she sounds honestly grateful. Funky, muted riffs are all it takes to propel "All Your Gold" into a danceable groove; Khan takes it from there and runs with it. Cases can be made for less being better, but after the ornate majesty of Two Suns and Fur & Gold, it's a case that few would have argued for Bat For Lashes; the beauty in its simplicity is what makes this album all the more a surprise.
Two of the best tracks on The Haunted Man were written about haunted women. "Marilyn" sees Khan singing a soaring chorus over pulsing electronics and an unobtrusive string accompaniment. The knockout, though, is "Laura." Smartly released as the record's first single, the striking piano ballad is a shot to the gut; you don't have to watch the teary music video to hear the sadness in her words. "You're the train that crashed my heart/You're the glitter in the dark/Oh, Laura, you're more than a superstar," she sings to the lonely subject of her song, half reassuring, half pleading with her. It's a heartbreaker on every spin. (www.batforlashes.com)
Author rating: 8.5/10
Average reader rating: 8/10