The Haunted Man is Bat for Lashes’, a.k.a. Natasha Khan, third studio album. On her previous two albums Fur and Gold and Two Suns, the multi-talented Khan has not only written the lyrics, but also composed all the music, often on a vast array of instruments, and produced all the songs herself. This fact alone indicates that The Haunted Man is the work of a very talented and committed musician, and a quick listen through her back catalogue confirms this.
Her first single, ‘The Wizard’, from Fur and Gold, utilises the combination of simple bass and drum arrangements and Khan’s haunting voice to produce a sparse, but menacing song. Her next album Two Suns, which revolved around her alter ego ‘Pearl’, saw her first mainstream success with the single ‘Daniel’. This provided a fuller, more symphonic sound than her earlier work with its string arrangement hook, yet still retained Khan’s distinctive vocal style.
The progression from Fur and Gold to Two Suns is clear and from listening to the few songs from The Haunted Man that are available. It appears Khan has continued this progression both musically and thematically. Whilst the first single ‘Laura’, populated only by a beautiful piano melody and Khan’s voice, is a throwback to the sparseness of ‘The Wizard’, Khan has moved from singing about teenage love as in ‘Daniel’ to consoling ‘Laura’ who is unable to let go of her party lifestyle and late-night escapades. It is a truly touching song, the video of which can be viewed here. Another song, ‘Marilyn’, available online, is made up intricate synth work and soaring vocals and continues to show Khan’s musical experimentation as she moves away from the style of piano-led lament ‘Laura’ .
The second single from the album, ‘All your gold’, released last month, is constructed around a minimal percussion beat and tells the story of an unhappy woman in a relationship that has left her devoid of energy and inspiration, after the man has ‘stolen all her gold’. There is more than a hint of feminist undertones in Khan’s poetic lyrics, much like in ‘The Wizard’, as well as the rising synths found in ‘Daniel’. While she continues to develop as a musician on The Haunted Man, there are always elements of her previous works in the new songs, giving an impression of personal evolution rather than complete change, as well as making her a much more interesting artist to engage with.
There is much to like in Bat for Lashes’ work. The innovative combination of electronic and physical instruments means her songs are always interesting to listen to and rewarding to relive. Her ponderous lyrics paint dreamy vignettes in the listener’s imagination which they are free to interpret as they so wish. This blend creates the real beauty of her work; there are no big hooks or anthemic choruses, the songs are enjoyable purely through the poetic lyrics and variety of instruments used. Each song, reminiscent of the work of Radiohead who have praised her highly, provide a textured listening experience which brings great sounds and stimulation every time you revisit it. For this reason, The Haunted Man is sure to be an album worth listening to and a welcome addition to any music fan’s collection.
The Haunted Man will be released on 12th October.