Bat For Lashes, Natasha Khan’s moniker, released her fourth album last year and as she continued to elaborate and expand her palette with other music ventures, its surprising just how little has changed over the four albums. “The Bride” is a concept album that runs a clear narrative of the titular character. From that standpoint everything is clear as day and the 13 track album works best as a body of work. I appreciate the album as a whole and I recommend sampling it in one go on your first listen as it sets the tone for when you do break things up afterwards.
The album is less hook driven than her previous work but the emotion is just as strong. The opening whimper of “I Do” feel like a celestial dream before the album plunges into its electronic organ pop. “Joes Dream” is a pulsating ballad of bass and throbbing beats. It’s eerie ghostly calls and the atmosphere it creates is what hits you first rather than the melody and in some ways this is the albums strength. “In God’s House” is a track where melody and atmosphere collide as Khan chooses unconventional chorus chord structures to create uneasy moments of beauty and decay. It’s also lovely to hear her push of vocal range too as it is sublime when she goes for the high notes and pulls them off. “Honeymooning Alone” has a lonely Western styled guitar punctuating the drums and emptiness. Instruments return to give nods to previous tracks and themes and they carry their own narrative with it. It’s key to its atmosphere is the use of lots of little textures of sound and nothing overpowering – and they all point to a feeling of dread and b-move horror.
After a sombre and mid tempo opening third “Sunday Love” gives us something more pacey and speedy. It’s simplicity in its delivery harks back to earlier Bat For Lashes singles and it’s easily the standout single styled track. The outro is perhaps my favourite part of the album as it moulds the oppressive and dreamlike sound quality with pure melody and makes me yearn for more of that. Instead we a single toned “Never Forgive The Angels” that picks a two string tone to let Khan layer her vocals around herself. “Close Encounters” works better for me with its twin peaks sci-fi misery synth pads that have a really creepy detuned and warping quality to them without ever really letting it seep into your mind at full capacity. As a result the downbeat track is one of the most depressing and emotional tracks she’s created. “Widow’s Peak” is a spoken word piece with a wonderful soundscape behind it. It’s a wonderfully evocative piece with great lyrics and a tense, Navajo like spiritual sensibility to it.
Almost as if the album couldn’t get more introspective, “Land’s End” is a simple guitar, vocal and minor string arrangement track. It’s simplicity and gentile nature is a breath of fresh air in places as the densely produced album has a crushing feeling to all the instruments and this feels like an understated Nadir moment. “If I Knew” continues that journey with a piano and vocal led piece as the album transitions to a more natural sounding section before “I Will Love Again” harks right back to the dense soundscape and dream lands as a mirror song for Joes Dream. It feels almost like a cleansed version of the track and they feel like sister songs, bookending an experience and journey made. The album concludes with “In Your Bed” and “Clouds” – both simple and charming ballads – the latter specifically using a vast lack of bass for most of the track and letting Khan’s purposefully battered vocal delivery be the key driver of the emotion. Indeed – a trait of this album is that Khan is not intent on hitting every note bang on key or on time – she’s more interested in the emotional impact of the sound. It’s a blessing and a curse at times but mostly it works.
I don’t think I’ve used the phrase “for the fans” for a long while but this is absolutely not where you should start on the Bat For Lashes discography. Whilst emotional and very good, it’s simplicity is masked by some great production choices and some songs merge into each other. It’s taken a few months for me to appreciate the album as it is but I would recommend either of the first two albums to start with before coming here. If you like a musical story of alt-pop descent though – this is right up your street.
Recommended Track : “Close Encounters”