Bat for Lashes, as of right now, is neither incredibly famous nor am I already a fan. Also, only one song on the album is under four minutes. Therefore, her music is average at best, – so goes the gist of how critics are responding to the metaphor-threatening award-winning multi-instrumentalist’s third album, The Haunted Man. I’d never heard of Natasha Khan (or her stage name) before receiving this album, but she combines the vocal styles of Bjork and Patti Smith with the musical elements of St. Vincent‘s low-end, and again, Bjork. The end result is powerful, bouncing from down-tempo to upbeat indie-dance, and some house beats thrown in for good measure, all wrapped up with catchy synths and choruses about different heavily-flawed men in her life – seen represented on the album cover as her (equally-nude) baggage.
“Oh Yeah,” the most sexual song, channels Portishead‘s Beth Gibbons and should be the second single behind opener “Lilies.” Instead, she went with “Laura,” a potent piano ballad, but a strange choice considering it sounds nothing like the rest of the album. Still, she hits hard, with minimal sounds to distract from the impact:
You say that they’ve left you behind
Your heart broke when the party died
Drape your arms around me and softly say
Can we dance upon the tables again?
While the chorus is slightly weaker, it crescendos to the wailed peak, “Ooh Laura, you’re more than a superstar,” supported by French horns. Naysayers rail Khan for “tinkering at the margins” too much, killing the songs’ repeat value. She does recycle some ideas towards the album’s end, but these critics couldn’t be more wrong – the attention to detail keeps things interesting for several more listens than the average experimental-pop album. Even on the misses, she always knows how to memorably build the last minute. And her bellowed refrains like “Thank God I’m alive,” as naked as her controversial album cover, let visibly pulsate one of the most uniquely accessible voices this year.