The Haunted Man
With Bat For Lashes (the alter-ego of Natasha Khan) it’s always been as easy/likely to be impressed by the influences as the actual music – and so that continues, in a sense, with third full-lengther, The Haunted Man. But it’s a bolder, more confidant Khan – as both singer and songwriter; each album logically building on the one before it. And with The Haunted Man there was the long/ish lead-in of that phenomenal first single, Laura. That’s a song.
Sometimes Bat For Lashes writes really great songs, other times – like so many of her, well, um, you could call it an ilk, I’m thinking of Laura Marling and Florence & The Machine and (particularly) St. Vincent, write and sing better ideas than actual songs. But Bat For Lashes is where the ideas are so good that even when they feel a bit like they’re only ever tracing around someone else’s original/earlier idea they’re still compelling enough – or Khan’s effort is compelling enough – for the idea to morph into actual song. We know that Florence Welch very swiftly fell on her ass, and was well out of ideas so early on in her career. St Vincent? Well, she comes and goes – she’s probably chasing too many ideas still. But Khan has it sussed. She understands what it takes to build the tune.
And The Haunted Man – as the cover tells us – is a naked effort, the synths and showy elements gone for the most part, or integrated fully, finely (finally), so that it’s about the emotional honesty. And that’s just another way of saying it’s about the song.
There was this feeling that we were supposed to just laugh along with the character-shtick across the first two albums. And the music was (generally) good enough for that to be okay (for the most part). But The Haunted Man is about Khan standing up – as singer, as songwriter – fronting a great set of tunes. We’re allowed in this time. So we have no trouble believing.
Well, I had a little trouble at first. Why did I need this as well as the Bjork and Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel and St Vincent records that I already have? Turns out it’s good enough to stand on its own. It’s full of smart ideas and gorgeous tunes. And it continues to be a grower. I need this. I respect it. I’m sometimes flat-out entranced in it.
Bat For Lashes, in largely ditching kook, has announced herself – finally – as the major talent that was always hinted at.