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Album Review
The Haunted Man

The Haunted Man
by Bat For Lashes

Label
Parlophone/EMI
Rating

Review Date
13th November 2012
Reviewed by
Max Walker

Over her last two albums, Natasha Khan, better known as Bat For Lashes, has developed her own brand of mystical synth pop. 2006’s Fur and Gold, and 2009’s Two Suns were both lauded by fans and critics alike whilst also being both nominated for Mercury prizes. Keeping to her three year schedule, 2012 sees Khan release third album The Haunted Man, a much more stripped back album than her previous efforts – a sentiment echoed in the striking album artwork by photographer Ryan McGinley featuring a nude Khan with an equally naked man on her shoulders.

This being said, this is no acoustic folk record. Electronic instruments and acoustic ebb and flow, often laying beautifully over each other. The production is reminiscent of a more fully realized and orchestral xx record. The Haunted Man, is somehow simultaneously darker and lighter than the previous two, the instrumentation floats around Khan’s evocative lyrics yet anchors her songs to a definite structure.

Opener ‘Lilies’ sees soaring acoustic strings meld with deep electronic bass synths. Orchestral stabs build around Khan unmistakable sublime quavering vocal and at one point the rest of the instruments halt as the lyric ‘Thank God I’m alive’ is repeated. The album is full of spine-tingling moments like this, usually due to the emotional rawness of Khan’s words. ‘All My Gold’ is another highlight, lead by a scattering rhythm and palm-muted guitar part. ‘Horses Of The Sun’ features thumping toms, brooding verses and tribal backing vocals.

But these opening tracks, all of which are some of Bat For Lashes best work, somehow fade from the listeners mind as first single and fifth-track ‘Laura’ begins. It’s the moment when you realize you are listening to a classic song before any words have been sung, the haunting simplicity of chords you hear for the first time yet somehow have heard before. As Khan begins to sing, the vulnerable, yet defiant tone of her voice is matched beautifully with the lyrics: ‘Drape your arms around me and softly say/ can we dance upon the tables again? When your smile is so wide and your heels are so high/you can’t cry’. The ballad features only piano, vocals and the subtlest of horns at the very end. All the power of the vocal goes unmolested with chilling results, easily one of the strongest songs to be released all year.

The Haunted Man seems set to be a modern classic, a record that is hard to fault. Khan has yet again raised the bar, and cements her place as one of the most consistent new artists of the last decade. It’s sound is not a departure from the previous albums; rather a more refined and focused evolution of her previous work. Khan’s vocals always take center stage and the strengths of her songwriting and arrangements shine through.


Links
batforlashes.com/




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