Bat For Lashes – The Haunted Man
Buy: The Haunted Man
When you’ve been nominated for an Ivor Novello award and your first two albums have been nominated for a Mercury Award, the creative pressure to deliver a career-defining masterpiece of a third album must be pretty overwhelming. Add in your own personal pressure of reaching your thirties, and all that that entails, and suddenly the release of The Haunted Man takes on a lot of significance for Natasha Khan.
One look at the album’s cover will tell you that she’s willing to take on the challenge head-on – but unfortunately the contents of the album fail to live up to such a striking and confident image.
With her song-writing talents and restlessly creative nature, Bat For Lashes will never make a bad album, but as in The Haunted Man she has a tendency to retreat too far into her own head and forget to balance the art with the entertainment.
When she’s good though, she’s untouchable. The goth-pop brilliance of ‘All Your Gold’ is a case in point, displaying all the emotion and drama we’ve come to expect from Bat For Lashes, with a beautiful, simple and affecting chorus explaining the lasting effects of a broken heart: “There was someone that I knew before / A heart from the past / That I can not forget / I let him take all my gold / And hurt me so bad / And now for you I have nothing left”. The hypnotic choral tones and sweeping synth melody of ’Oh Yeah’ also stand out, while ‘Laura’, a song about leaving the bright lights behind and growing up, is probably the most assured pop song Khan has ever done – albeit one that was co-written by the man behind Lana Del Rey’s ’Video Games’.
Amongst these very shiny gems, though, are a lot of foggy, unrealised songs – with a lot of the album suffering from a lack of cohesion and no real sense of purpose. The title track drifts around too much, going from slow-burning electro fuzz to tattoo drums and then sweeping strings and a hymnal chorus. You can almost hear it striving to become the grandiose stand-out track of the album, but it never quite hits its epic targets. ’A Wall’ tries to be an angry, stuttery electro-soul number but suffers from Khan’s propensity for the ethereal rather than the direct, while ’Horses Of The Sun’ – with it’s mystic wailing and quasi-spiritual production – fails to make any impact at all.
The likes of ’Marilyn’ and ’Winter Fields’ are decent, if unspectacular, songs, but they fail to truly stand out from the slightly unstructured and intangible murk that makes up the majority of The Haunted Man.