Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man
Can I just take a moment right at the start of this review to address that yes; Natasha Khan is naked on the cover of her latest outing as Bat For Lashes, and yes; it is a very brave and avante garde thing to have done... but since when did controversial or eye catching cover art become an issue? Surely the true judgement of a record can only be assessed after listening to the thing that's most important; a little known thing called music?
The Haunted Man is Khan's third record, and her first since Mercury nominated Two Suns made her one of 2009's pivotal musicians in a year that gave us Florence (isn't she doing well?) and Little Boots. 'Lilies' kicks off with Khan declaring she's "as empty as a grave" in typical Bat For Lashes style. Importantly it bridges the gap between records, slotting perfectly in with the much loved styling that brought us 'Daniel', and mixing them with Khan's new, and dare I say it, even slightly urban new direction?
Latest single 'All Your Gold' follows on well, but having had two lead singles before the release of the record, it doesn't feel as exciting as hearing the remaining 'never heard before' tracks. 'Horses Of The Sun' sees Khan go slightly farm emo, but the vocals are a little timid and held back when placed over an ever so slightly cacophonic mix of drums, guitars and what sounds like a harp, but probably isn't.
Now we're hitting the exceptionally well composed 'Laura', an epicly melancholic masterpiece. It is abundantly clear why it was the first track from the album to be released; it's a readymade wedding dance ballad perfect for people to cry along and eat cake to. We live in a world of 'instant everything', and thus long intros are now a rare occurrence and a potentially dangerous technique, but 'Winter Fields' is as pure as the snow about which Khan sings, and is most definitely worth the 40+ second wait for the first vocal.
The eponymous track is new ground for Khan with a dubstep tinge. It shouldn't work on paper but what you're left with is a pleasant listening experience most comparable these days to bands like AlunaGeorge, and everyone seems to love them; even me. 'Rest Your Head' and 'Deep Sea Diver' might not be the most epic of conclusions to what is a solid record, but their placing at the tail end is enough to sing you into one of the most pleasant and peaceful sleeps you may ever encounter.
The Haunted Man showcases some of her best work, but only in places. However, as a cohesive sound, Khan has been taking steps only in the right direction during her time away. Her ability to know when to go for it and when to hold back is what makes Bat For Lashes one of the most well liked songwriters of recent years.