It reveals a lot about our outdated attitudes that much of the hype surrounding the release of Bat For Lashes’ new record has focused on the album cover - where Natasha Khan poses nude with an equally naked man draped over her shoulders - rather than the music itself. That said, despite her previous two LPs receiving Mercury Music Prize nominations, there’s not too much to get excited about in ‘The Haunted Man’.
The hallmarks of Bat For Lashes are all present - dramatic string arrangements, brooding electronic soundscapes, and lyrics preoccupied with mythology and spirituality - but all too often it feels like the actual song has been neglected. It’s as if Khan has spent so long tinkering at the margins, perfecting the patterns and textures, that she’s forgotten the fundamentals. As a result, while every track on ‘The Haunted Man’ is brimming with invention, there’s little to keep you coming back for repeat listens.
The main exception to this is ‘Laura’; a track that faded into obscurity when released as a single but is a tender counterpoint to the icy synths and measured vocals that dominate ‘The Haunted Man’. It’s the most organic and natural-sounding song on the record and shows what Khan is capable of when she reins in her excesses. It’s also the only track that’s collaborative, co-written with Justin Parker, the man who penned ‘Video Games’ with Lana Del Rey. Maybe an external influence is what’s necessary for Bat For Lashes to reach the heights she previously scaled.
Words by JOE RIVERS