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.