I’ve taken a lot of time to review this album and its down to one reason. Initially I was very, very underwhelmed. I wanted to see if it was a grower, not a shower – so to speak. I must say, I like it more than I did originally but I feel it’s the weakest album to date.
“Lilies” opens up the album quiet, empty and thin aside from the big bass synth added into the chorus and closing segments of the track. This is indicative of the rest of the album. There’s a good song there somewhere and in Lilies its found, but in others the song doesn’t really come through at all. It’s like the album is trying to hold a space but it’s too thin to do so, or working on too little to keep your attention. “All Your Gold” is a typical Bat For Lashes track and here she is playing to her strengths but even the strings that enter the track at the end sound thin over the very clumsy bass line. “Horses In The Sun” is one of the few moments the album feels like it’s in full swing. The vocals are dual speakered and things are pulsating, pumping and sounding fresh and new. There’s not a ton of chords or anything particularly new or pressing happening – it just sounds much more fuller. “Oh Yeah” then returns to the thin synth sounds and by the time I’ve finished the song I didn’t feel like all the elements fitted together properly as its got all the quirks of what I like in a top drawer track – but it just doesn’t happen for me.
“Laura” is the quiet track on the album. Piano and vocal. It’s nice but again it’s not utilised to its fullest. “Winter Fields” is a great track that again doesn’t push itself forward through production and instrument volumes. Title track “The Haunted Man” is an interesting track because it pushes Bat For Lashes off into slightly different territory with militant percussion a soldier chant. It makes you realise that she is certainly forging new paths even if the end result isn’t always quite hitting the mark. “Marilyn” continues the female named aspect of her song titles but despite a lot of ethereal production and some impressive vocal gymnastics again it doesn’t push through. “A Wall” brings out the pop drums and keyboard synths but they just don’t inspire any passion. It’s like the life was sucked out of them and the melody isn’t catchy at all.
“Rest your Head” goes some way to repay the last couple of tracks with a fantastic track mixing real and electronic instruments together in a catchy melancholic tune and this is what Bat For Lashes does well. “Deep Sea Diver” closes the album with a lengthy ambience of vocal oohs and piano loops over muddy keyboards and it holds a nice space but takes appreciation to understand.
That appreciation is something I really struggled to find. I’m looking back at my review which reads quite damning. “The Haunted Man” is not a bad album, it’s just not a patch to the previous two and where I felt things were going more dance tribal, this strip back approach took me off guard because it has stripped things back so thinly there’s nothing to cling to if the melody is not strong enough to hold its own. In half the songs, I don’t think the melodies are.
Bat For Lashes is back with new song “Laura” which avoids any beats whatsoever. The new album “The Hunted Man” is out October 15th.
Bat For Lashes appears to have gone commercial but fear not – I mean it in the literal sense. Recording a cover of Depeche Mode’s “Strangelove” she’s now the music for a Gucchi advert! Possibly the most random placement of one of my favourite artists in quite some time! Listen to the full track here.
Bat For Lashes’ recently performed her latest single “Daniel” on Live with Jools Holland, a great show for true performers to play on and let themselves go with excellent performances. You can watch the performance here.
Second albums are supposed to be the hard ones to do. Keeping your original sound whilst staying fresh and not repeating. Bat For Lashes’ début album “Fur and Gold” was a corker and with the follow up “Two Suns” released Monday HPM can report that Natasha Atlas has pulled out another stunner from her bag of tricks with an album that’s infectious and catchy as it is unique.
Opener “Glass” has a real rumbling urgency about it with rolling drum beats and soaring vocals in the chorus. There’s an opening poem that’s integral to the overall thought pattern to the album as a whole which seems tied to the history books of Solomon. “Glass” is catchy and violently addictive with its mix of tribal elements and electronics. This is carried through to the more minimal “Sleep Alone” which runs parallel with “Trophy” from the previous album in terms of its overall soundscape and feel. There’s the plodding bass, stomping beat and some funky vocal hooks over the top.
“Moon and Moon” has been about on the internet for ages – infact we featured it in a Live Vault post months ago. The album version differs little from that performance but remains just as enchantingly beautiful. It’s really the only ballad on the album so it stands out even more as a highlight. That’s followed by single “Daniel” which gives a more electro-pop vibe than the rest of the album contains. It’s about as a commercial as the album gets with its 80′s synth and pop beats. The chorus is understated and its all about the instrument riffs.
“Peace of Mind” follows as the experimental piece on the album. It’s difficult upon first listen but after a few rounds in your player it’s electric folk / gospel cross over catches on as a mark of genius as it all comes together for the end result. “Siren’s Song” then takes over as the big number of the album. Starting off just piano and vocal – instruments are added and the pace quickens into a frenzied freak out – similar to “Bat’s Mouth” only more gritter and angrier. There’s a doomsday feel to the song, like walking off the edge of a plank. The atmosphere’s electric and its a great example of how a simple song can really be effective.
“Pearls Dream” will probably be a single with its uptempo alternative dance beat and its marvellous chorus with its duelling vocals that lead the way to an infectious song. Infact if its not the next single, I will eat my proverbial hat! “Good Love” is organ heavy and possibly my least favourite of the album. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the track, it just feels a little clunky at the beginning compared to the smooth timing of the rest of the album but I am being very picky. Here Natasha’s vocal layering is particularly pretty as she talks over the verses and ambience swirls around it.
“Two Planets” is the tribal song of the album although the percussion throughout the album is excellent. With Bat For Lashes there’s always an ancient meets the future clashing sound to her work and nowhere is that shown better than here. It’s a free flowing track that may be overlooked by some but its a work of art. Ruslana anyone?
“Travelling Woman” is the most straightforward track on the album – almost band like. However the cleverness comes in the time transitions between the 4 beat a bar verses and the waltzing slowed down choruses. It’s an interesting twist that gives the song its own lullaby persona. That leaves closer “The Big Sleep” which is bizarrely comical and cosmic with a perfectly sad piano ambient track being sung over by a sincere Natasha and absolutely murdered by a male at the same time who’s singingly almost anti-operatic. It’s got its charm but you can’t take it seriously which I hope is its intention – however if you’re in a sad mood it could well be effective.
“Two Suns” is a triumph. Bat For Lashes has moved forward and included a splash more electronica to her sound whilst not losing her native roots in ancient music. The cross over of the two is sublime, the music is compelling as it is a joy to listen to and I for one am satisfied that this is in the top three releases so far in 2009.
Bat for Lashes’ second album “Two Suns” is coming out next monday and we are excited for one. Here is the promo video for the lead single “Daniel” which marks a new retro electronic sound for the songstress. You can view the video here.
This weeks Live Vault comes from the excellent Bat For Lashes with a non album song I’d not heard until I found this clip. Performed live on the Culture Show on the BBC, “Moon and Moon” is the only non-album track that I have found from this magical lady.
Making a change, its great to see someone really give a fantastic performance on a TV show, where I have seen many of my favourite artists give some poor performances! Here is “Moon and Moon”