You’d be forgiven for thinking that the there is a typo on the cover of this, the third Bat For Lashes album. Instead of The Haunted Man, it might well read The “Hunted” Man, as the cover depicts a naked Natasha Khan with a naked male draped over her shoulders like a recently-shot deer. I assume there will be more clothing involved when Bat For Lashes perform at the upcoming Laneway Festival in January.
Musically, the songwriting, which apparently came after a bout of writer’s block, is more direct than previous efforts. The most obvious example of this is the song Laura. The tune was co-written with Justin Parker, who also c0-wrote Lana Del Ray’s Video Games. The mood is similarly haunted and striking. Khan sings over Parker’s stately piano. Her voice is warm and intimate as she sings, “You say that they all left you behind, your heart broke when the party died, drape your arms around me and softly say, can we dance upon the tables again?”. Later she sings, “You’re more than a superstar”, which has fans speculating on who she could be singing about. So far it’s unclear, and really doesn’t matter. The track is easily the album’s highlight. The strings and horns that come in later only add to the pleasure.
Elsewhere Khan uses a combination of electronica, synthesised sounds and real strings and horns to adorn her sometimes over-dramatic vocals that have drawn comparisons to Kate Bush and Bjork. It’s certain hard not to think of Kate when Natasha sings about running up hills in Rest Your Head. That song, like several others on the album, finds Khan offering solace and comfort, presumably or possible to the poor chap who is limply hanging over her shoulders.
Other highlights include the title track, with its Pink Floyd-ish guitar line, military drum beat and male chorus. It’s one of the more adventurous tracks on the album. All Your Gold is another keeper with its playful electronics and mature, intense vocal performance.
It will be interesting to see how Bat For Lashes fares in a live situation like the Laneway Festival. A lot of the music depends on the audience’s willingness to actually listen, so a lot depends on the crowd and the venue…although big rousing numbers like Lilies should have no problem cutting through the noise.
In the meantime, The Haunted Man stands as Bat For Lashes’ most accessible and satisfying album to date.
Click here to listen to All Your Gold from The Haunted Man: