Bat for Lashes delivers beautifully creepy third album | WBEZ
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Jim DeRogatis

Natasha Khan: Haunting indeed

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Bat for Lashes (Columbia Records)
Arriving just in time for Halloween and appropriately titled The Haunted Man, the third album from British singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Natasha Khan — better known as Bat for Lashes — is a gorgeous but unsettling dreamscape that slowly but relentlessly works its way into your subconscious. Haunting indeed.

A Mercury Prize winner who’s been lauded in the U.K. since the release of her 2006 debut Fur and Gold, Khan has at best achieved a sort of cult buzz on these shores, though she deserves much better. Plentiful are the touchstones for her ethereal sounds— think of a more sinister Tori Amos or Kate Bush blended with a bit of sly, low-key Polly Jean Harvey, a sprinkle of electronic goth and a hint of Steve Reich in the backing tracks. Yet she’s consistently been honing a voice that’s distinctly her own, and it’s never more vital than on these 11 new tracks.

The cover art, which Khan intended as an homage to the classic images that Robert Mapplethorpe shot for Patti Smith, depicts the discretely nude artist hauling an equally naked man on her shoulders, hinting that this might be an account of the baggage from a failed relationship. But Khan is no whiny Fiona Apple type; even at its most mellow and minimalist, as on the title track, she evinces a slow-burning fire built equally on anger (much of her work is inspired by a lifelong fight against sexism and racism) and an unshakeable faith in herself. That tune shifts from a slow chant powered by little more than an electronic heartbeat and a whisp of a synthesizer into a full-on martial assault, while the first “Laura” is notable for its elegant hook and the declaration, “You say, that they’ve all left you behind/Your heart broken, the party died… Oh, Laura, you’re more than a superstar.”

That tune was co-written by Justin Parker, the hired hand behind Lana Del Rey’s breakthrough hit “Video Games.” But the difference between Bat for Lashes and the glamorous indie chanteuse is like a pint of English stout versus a Miller Lite.


Bat for Lashes, The Haunted Man (Capitol)

Rating on the four-star scale: 3.5 stars.


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