Release Date: Jul 1, 2016
Record label: Warner Bros.
Employing a multifaceted approach to her fourth album as Bat for Lashes, Natasha Khan draws from her studies of film, visual art and fashion design to create a tangible world on The Bride. Khan takes listeners on the journey of titular character, The Bride, whose fiancé, Joe, dies on the way to their wedding. The gentle naïveté of "I Do," all auto harp and whimsy, flows into the deep romance of "Joe's Dream," as Khan's moving vocals soar and whisper with emotion.
Natasha Khan and the subject of matrimony are well-acquainted companions. On her last outing, we were introduced to an eternally bound haunted man. Since then, we've been treated to a Dan Carey collaboration exploring world femininity and relationships, and a psychedelic cover of an Iranian track by Amir Rassaei called 'Aroos Khanom' (translated to 'The Bride').
As loath as we should usually be to take a musician’s educational background into account when assessing their work, it’s impossible not to think that Natasha Khan’s time spent studying film at university holds the key to understanding what drives her creatively. Musically, she’s shifted shape at every turn since Fur and Gold, which turns ten in September, but her broadly cinematic approach to her records has remained consistent. Both her debut and its follow-up, 2009’s Two Suns, were thick with palpable atmosphere; The Haunted Man was icier, more calculated, but still brimmed with complex storytelling.
Ten years ago, Natasha Khan asked “What’s a Girl to Do?” on her 2006 breakthrough single, not as a damsel in distress but a woman who simply lost the thrill of being in love. She would go on to fill albums No. 2 and 3 — 2009’s Two Suns and 2012’s The Haunted Man, respectively — with restless characters, ones often plagued by their constant need to seek love and guidance outside themselves.
Concept albums have always received bad press. No doubt in part to them requiring an overarching theme, they have to follow a pattern or a guide, and that doesn’t always sit well with what we believe to be the free flow of the music we love. It’s not a charge you could level at Natasha Khan’s wedding-themed fourth album. The Bride tackles the plight of its doomed narrator from so many perspectives that the dominant themes of loves past and future are conveyed with grace.
Though no-one really expected uncomplicated happiness from Bat for Lashes’ new concept album ‘The Bride’, surely few expected something as achingly sad as this. ‘The Bride’ tells the story of a woman whose fiancé dies in a car crash on their way to their wedding. Overcome with grief, she leaves the church and goes on their honeymoon alone.
As Natasha Khan has made known in interviews, press releases and live shows, her fourth album as Bat for Lashes has a concept. It revolves around a woman whose fiancé dies on his way to their wedding, and her subsequent experiences of life after love. In song-title terms, it’s a journey that takes us from the hopeful I Do, to Honeymooning Alone and, later, I Will Love Again.
Natasha Khan, aka Bat for Lashes, has an uncanny knack for world-building, an ability to craft a musical and aesthetic environment brimming with rich scenes and fantastical characters. Moving gradually from folk and chamber music to emotional electronic pop over four albums, she’s been able to carve out an uncompromising niche for herself, and while not as musically stunning as her last two records (2009’s Two Suns and 2012’s The Haunted Man, both excellent benchmarks for her brand of self-contained yet grandiose songwriting), The Bride may be Bat for Lashes’ most ambitious project yet, a true concept album, every song tightly woven into a through narrative from start to finish. The Bride tells the story of a woman left at the altar—not because her fiancé skipped out on the occasion but because he died in a car crash on his way to the wedding.
Puzzlement gives way to fascination when absorbing Natasha Khan's new album as Bat For Lashes. The unambiguous titles of the album, The Bride, and opening track, "I Do," lead you to think that maybe Khan devoted an entire project to the subject of her own marriage. Always having kept her romantic life private, this would have been an about face of transparency.
Natasha Khan (aka Bat For Lashes) is no stranger to conceptual projects. Her breakthrough album, 2009’s Two Suns, is loosely centered around a wild alter ego to Khan’s subdued personality. Last year’s debut Sexwitch album found her teaming with English rock band TOY on a collection of psych covers ranging from Iran to Thailand. However, she has never fully embraced a concept quite like she does with new album The Bride.
When people think of pop music these days, what typically comes to mind are the occasionally stale radio offerings of today’s Top 40. It’s important to remember, though, just how wide the genre is, and that there are so many players in the industry pushing boundaries. Though there are perhaps more people gravitating to the center of the pop universe, Natasha Khan’s (who operates under the name Bat For Lashes) latest release, The Bride, seems about as far removed from typical pop as it gets.
The last time we heard from Natasha Khan, it was as Sexwitch, collaborating with the band TOY and producing an intriguing if slightly uneven collection of covers of 1970s psych-folk songs from all over the globe. Less than a year later, she’s back as Bat For Lashes and on far more familiar ground with The Bride, a concept album about, as the title may suggest, a wedding. This is no ordinary wedding which Khan is documenting though – in her tale (and a spoiler alert should be added here), the groom to be dies on the way to the church, and Khan’s titular bride takes off on her honeymoon alone with her memories of her lost love.
Marriage has long been a fraught institution, but The Bride, the fourth full-length from Natasha Khan’s project Bat For Lashes, manages to extract beauty from it. Inspired in part by a short film directed by Khan called I Do (2015), the album tells a story, already turned into the beginnings of a novella, in which a bride’s fiancé is killed in a car crash prior to their wedding day. This macabre turn doesn’t doom the tale to tragedy, however; after a spooky romp with a ghost, a solo honeymoon, and nostalgic reminiscing, the story ends with the bride lost among clouds, praising rain as divine.
Depending on listeners' patience, however, The Bride's slower second half may be hypnotic or dreary. To trace the arc from mourning to recovery, Khan relies on ballads that range from bitter ("Never Forgive the Angels") to empowering ("I Will Love Again," which sounds more like the kind of fare Adele or Christina Aguilera would sing). And though she gives the bride a surprisingly happy ending with "In Your Bed" -- which finds the character wanting to stay in her lover's arms rather than go out on the town -- it feels like her story is missing several chapters.
It's obvious from the moment Natasha Khan overconfidently declares that “all the sorrow will drop away” on “I Do,” the opening track of Bat for Lashes's The Bride, that she's setting her protagonist up for a rude awakening—or at least a flurry of terrifying dreams. Sure enough, lead single “In God's House” finds Khan's bride left at the altar, prompting visions of her paramour's fiery demise that blur the line between paranoid fantasy and premonition. The album follows a rather straightforward narrative structure: girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl traverses various physical and metaphysical planes of grief, girl looks inside herself, girl moves on and into someone else's bed.
‘A dark meditation on love, loss, grief, and celebration,’ the press release calls Bat for Lashes' latest, and that’s great - what we really need right now is more fucking misery. But then Natasha Khan has always excelled in conjuring other realms, from shadowed glens to snowy Downs and two suns burning over strangers in strange lands: maybe alter egos and epic journeys are precisely the solution. And hey, The Bride is quite the journey, from the title character's widowing at the wedding alter to the honeymoon car speeding down the highway, "yellow lines like veins" and "white veil thrashing in the wind", the passenger seat’s red leather "cold as a March rain" as Chapter One - that’s right, there’s an actual written story that goes with this - puts it.
Bat for Lashes mastermind Natasha Khan has long cultivated the myth of the wistful chanteuse, presenting dusky, dreamy declarations of emptiness and yearning on her past three albums. She's like Stevie Nicks wearing bat wings instead of shawls, This Mortal Coil with a (very slight) backbeat or PJ Harvey with a synth orchestra. On her latest, the concept album The Bride, she fully embraces darkness to beautiful and depressing effects.
Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan returns in very different garb for her fourth album, swapping black ceremonial robes for white. Last heard ululating on 2015’s highly entertaining psych-rock side project, Sexwitch, this latest album opens with Disney arpeggios and girly conventions on romantic love, with a bride-to-be imagining her happily-ever-after as a kind of rebirth. Previewing this concept album with a series of gigs in churches dressed all in white, Khan has a more tragic and complex story to tell, however.
It was the sinister melodies of the Mercury-nominated Fur and Gold that first brought Natasha Khan to prominence nearly ten years ago. Its beat-laden follow-up Two Suns and the tribal Sexwitch project added strings to her bow, but for her fourth album as Bat for Lashes it’s back to the sparse, haunting aura of her debut. A thread of tortured melancholy with scattered lyrics of loss and grief weave together an imagined story of a woman who loses her fiancée in a crash on the way to their nuptials – hardly the cheeriest fare we're sure you'll agree.
Fairy tales, especially love stories, typically involve conflicts neatly overcome by the end. But what happens when the fairy-tale ending you expect turns out to be a disastrous beginning? Natasha Khan's fourth Bat for Lashes album is her most mature and cohesive yet: a concept album about a bride losing her groom in a car crash on their wedding day, and the grieving, reconstruction and self-discovery that demands. Khan hopes to use it as the soundtrack to a film, and its subversive story is boldly cinematic.
Opening track ‘I Do’ darkens its Omnichord with ominous bass as she anticipates her wedding day: “All of the sorrow will drop away… when you say ‘I do’. ” When news of the Groom’s death has her fleeing the church in their honeymoon car, she notes the poignant “cans on the road in tail lights”. ‘Never Forgive The Angels’ pays homage to the sombre guitar of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’; the bewitching chimes of ‘Widow’s Peak’ have the Bride in a spoken-word purification ritual; the bassline of ‘I Will Love Again’ is simple but transcendent.
Her music earns frequent comparisons to Kate Bush—how could it not, with her soprano voice and theatrical flair?—but Natasha Khan’s fourth album as Bat For Lashes, The Bride, is more reminiscent of Tori Amos. (Not that there’s a huge difference between the two, to be fair.) Amos mined similar thematic territory on her 1998 album From The Choirgirl Hotel, specifically the song “Jackie’s Strength,” about a bride who’s shot dead on her front lawn on the day of her wedding. Inspired by a short film Khan directed last year, The Bride follows a parallel narrative, only reversed: A woman’s fiancé is killed in a car crash on the way to their wedding, so she goes on their honeymoon alone.
“The Bride,” Bat for Lashes “The Bride,” the new album by English singer-songwriter Natasha Khan, who performs as Bat for Lashes, is written from the perspective of a woman whose fiancée dies before he reaches the wedding. The opening song, “I Do,” is a promising exposition: a minimal processional about the bride’s longing for her wedding day. After that, the story blurs.