Album Review: Bat for Lashes - The Haunted Man
The enigmatic Bat For Lashes returns with a dark follow up to the Mercury nominated Two Suns.
The Haunted Man is a collection of dark songs that slowly, subtly shift in style and texture whilst retaining all of Natasha Khan’s trademarks; beguiling vocals, haunting, expansive string and synth arrangements. The resonating guitar on opener Lilies would fit right into the Pulp Fiction Soundtrack. Oh Yeah is like a dance anthem slowed down and warped into something edgier and unworldly.
On Two Suns Natasha branched out, collaborating with Scott Walker and Yeasayer. On The Haunted Man she assembled a loose-knit family of musicians and producers. Rob Ellis helped sculpt the immense sounds that accompany Natasha’s typically enigmatic songs. For the title track he projected massed male vocals across a canyon with an amp, then recorded the slapback. A powerful effect in a song about women waiting for soldiers to return from war.
It is Natasha’s songwriting has benefitted most from collaboration. Beck has been her mentor and appears on Marilyn one of the album’s more playful numbers. Laura was co-written with Justin Parker and with its simple piano accompaniment and vivid, heartrending lyrics it is the album’s standout track. The elaborate production and multilayered instrumentation elsewhere on the album tends to mask lyrics which are often vague and devoid of meaning. On Laura the instrumentation is stripped down and the words are brought to the fore.
This is an intense piece of work from an accomplished artist still experimenting, still striving to learn through collaboration with some of the best living songwriters and producers.