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.