Release Date: Oct 22, 2012
Record label: Capitol
Genre(s): Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Natasha Khan's sexiest, spookiest LP starts with its cover: the naked singer shouldering a crumpled, naked man. The emotional metaphor seems familiar to her. "From inside his mouth, I lick the scars," she murmurs on "A Wall," amid shivering synths. On the title track, a male choir reps for a dude "scorched" by a kiss, before an orchestral march and Khan's Joan of Arc vocals send him packing.
Bat For LashesThe Haunted Man[Parlophone; 2012]By Caitlin White; October 22, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweet“Still I’m holding out my hand/ Standing by my haunted man” Natasha Khan isn’t playing it close to the chest. On the third studio release from the mastermind behind Bat For Lashes, she's titled the album The Haunted Man, leaving little to the imagination. But the imagination contained within Khan’s heartbreak minutiae reveals a genius tied to a stake of her own making, burning as a witch who won’t stop summoning her own demons.
Natasha Khan, on the cover of her third Bat For Lashes album, stands nude save for a necklace, a naked man draped over her shoulders as if he were a feather boa. As far as artists posing nude for album art goes, it's pretty tasteful—she's in more decent repose than John and Yoko on the cover of Two Virgins, yet it feels more revealing than Prince's Lovesexy—with the nude man-boa covering her possibly controversial bits, and vice versa. The cover's in stark contrast to her past albums—where she was outfitted in a pair of flashy, mystical costumes—but so is the music located therein.
Natasha Khan has said her third album as Bat for Lashes is partly inspired by studying her own family history. This is informative. Her father, a trainer for the Pakistani national squash team, left suddenly when she was 11, and his departure casts a shadow on the fairytale drama of Bat for Lashes' debut, 2006's Fur and Gold. Yeah, but one of the guys Khan's dad coached? Her cousin, Jahangir Khan? He went on to become a six-time world champion and basically his sport's equivalent of a Pelé or Michael Jordan.
Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. Or rather, an album. The cover of The Haunted Man is a naked Natasha Khan, a.k.a. Bat For Lashes, staring directly at the camera, covered only by a man she wears over her shoulders. Appropriately, Bat For Lashes drops most of the elaborate ornamentation ….
Bullet Media recently scolded music critics for overusing cliches like “angular,” “reverb-soaked” and “lush.” These cliches, however accurate they might seem, are the bread and butter of unimaginative writers who don’t feel like reaching for higher-hanging fruit. But one cliche on the list ends up causing a problem, at least for anything said about The Haunted Man, Bat For Lashes’ third album. “Achingly beautiful”—this is verboten.
A picture might be worth a thousand words, but the stark NSFW cover of Bat for Lashes’ The Haunted Man says much more than that about the music contained in the album. While any written description of the artwork can’t quite capture what’s going on in it, suffice it to say that the black-and-white photo of Natasha Khan, au naturale, with a naked male body draped over her shoulders, is as exposed and intimate as the songs on The Haunted Man are. The image is one that projects strength and vulnerability at the same time, suggesting how even if Khan’s weighed down by more than her fair share of baggage, she’s tough enough to bear the burden of what – and whom – she’s done wrong.
Natasha Khan has never been afraid of melancholy. Both of her previous records were devastatingly desolate, equally suited to solitary late-night meditations or 2 pm still-in-bed consolations. With a title like The Haunted Man and the blundering, self-loathing single Laura ("You're more than a superstar, you're the train that crashed my heart"), Khan's new album finds her unchanged.
Flaunting one’s flesh can seem like a lazy way of getting a few column inches by popping the odd pair of pervy eyeballs out of their sockets. For someone whose last album occasionally ponged of the Emperor’s New Clothes, though, the image of a starkers Natasha Khan on the cover of ‘The Haunted Man’ feels pertinent. In ‘Two Suns’ she masqueraded as a swashbuckling soul who could spin you a helluva yarn about swords’n’sorcery fancy.
Whatever else you make of it, you'd be hard-pushed to call the cover of Natasha Khan's third album anything other than striking. Shot in black and white, Khan faces the camera naked, her modesty covered by the trailing limbs of the equally naked man she's carrying over her shoulders. The most intriguing thing might be the expression on her face, which carries a distinct hint of FFS about it: don't you just hate it when you end up with a naked man draped over your shoulder? It all makes for an intriguing contrast with the way Khan presented herself on the previous Bat for Lashes albums.
Natasha Khan's two previous Bat for Lashes albums -- 2006's Fur and Gold and 2009's Two Suns -- were lavish affairs from their cover images to their intricate songs. However, The Haunted Man's album artwork, which depicts Khan as naked except for the also nude man slung over her shoulders, was one of the first hints that she was taking a slightly different tack with this set of songs. More proof came with "Laura," the soft, spare ballad she picked to be the album's lead single.
As thrilling as it was getting that first glimpse of the war-painted Bat For Lashes storming a stage back in 2006, there was always a sense that all the exuberance and originality could quite easily take a tumble into crystals-and-pretty-horses earnestness. And indeed, on this third Bat For Lashes album, the quizzical, electro-ized olde Albion folk music that once so charmed us has seen the last of its edges filed down by lots of ostensibly expensive production. It’s a credit, then, to the sheer artistic life force of Natasha Khan (she who is, for all intents and purposes, Bat For Lashes) that The Haunted Man steers clear of all those horrid Lilith Fair clichés.
Let’s just get this out of the way right now: Yes, that’s Natasha Khan in the nude, standing like a valkyrie, carrying a wounded soldier on the cover of The Haunted Man. Why has an artful nude that’s not explicit proven even remotely controversial in the 21st century? An answer to the question is not found within the long-awaited album, but it does hint toward the stripping down of the sound and style of Bat for Lashes. Though The Haunted Man features certain pruned features, a minimalist work this is not.
Natasha Khan's first two albums as Bat For Lashes (2006's Fur and Gold and 2009's Two Suns) cast her as a playful, idiosyncratic musician whose penchant for quirk often eclipsed her talent as a songwriter. Third album The Haunted Man is Khan's mature record. Moved by the quiet grandeur of the English countryside where she's been living and informed by the research she's done on the history and culture of her native land, The Haunted Man is defined by a more refined sensibility, drawing back the playful clatter of her first two albums in favour of sparser arrangements and a slightly elegiac tone.
I discovered Bat for Lashes almost randomly one late night while perusing a now-defunct celebrity playlist feature on iTunes. That particular week featured Thom Yorke’s picks, and his list of leftfield recommendations included Fur and Gold, Natasha Khan’s moody, hushed debut as Bat for Lashes that effectively combined Yorke’s own taste for gloomy atmospherics with a decidedly more organic and bohemian aesthetic. Khan’s dark piano pop has come a long way since then, and the near-perfection of her sophomore effort, Two Suns, inevitably saddles The Haunted Man with a crushing amount of expectation.
Three years ago, Natasha Khan didn’t seem fit for anyone’s constraints. Released in April 2009, her Two Suns album was a dark, multifaceted journey, on which the vocalist battled her alter ego, 'Pearl', a narcissistic femme fatale. On it, pop singer Khan kept things visceral: parts of the recording were unfiltered, her vocal despair bolstered by an equally desperate soundtrack of folk-rock and atmospheric soul.
A stripped-down – yet chart friendly – return…When Bat For Lashes’ darkling “What’s A Girl To Do?” showed up in Brett Easton Ellis’s 2010 novel Imperial Bedrooms – his neo-noir high-school reunion sequel to Less Than Zero – it seemed like a significant artistic coup. Short of retconning your way onto a John Hughes soundtrack or a David Lynch commercial, it represents a pinnacle of a certain kind of 21st century pop ambition. Florence Welch, for one, was chartreuse with envy.
On 2009’s Two Suns, Natasha Khan (aka Bat for Lashes) focused the atmospheric, folktronic quirkiness of her intriguing debut to create a sophomore album that was both a uniquely strong artistic statement and a consistently engaging LP. On The Haunted Man, Khan continues to pursue a similar approach to combining ambition and concision, but, unfortunately, the result is a disappointingly tepid album, for it seems now that Khan’s ambition is less about grandiose concept albums (such as Two Suns) than it is about cashing in her credibility for more widespread acclaim. The jarring sonics and emotional intensity of earlier cuts like “Sleep Alone” and “Siren Song” have been replaced with songs that—while still centered around Khan’s strong, expressive singing voice (which resembles Kate Bush’s more now than ever)—are rooted in arrangements that are frustratingly sparse and surprisingly pedestrian.
The paganism of the dressing-up box has been a rich source of inspiration for art-pop women in recent years. This modern era for pelts'n'robes began with Felt Mountain, Goldfrapp's haunted debut from 2000, an album eventually followed by the horny stag-head rave-ups of Supernature (2005). Bat for Lashes's own debut was 2006's Fur and Gold, a record whose faintly tribal, flouncy avant-song distantly recalled the swoop of Kate Bush with a rabbit bone for a hairpin.
Bat for Lashes Passions run high, and so do musical ambitions, in the songs of Natasha Khan, the English songwriter who records as Bat for Lashes. “Never whisper you a great love story/Only scream and cry and moan,” she sings on her third album, “The Haunted Man” (Capitol). With the ….
Patti Smith. Kate Bush. Tori Amos. PJ Harvey. Björk. All bold, original, and inventive artists, all constantly pushing the boundaries; between them, they account for some of the most daring and forward thinking music over the last thirty-odd years. It’s a very impressive lineage, and a list that ….
It's a risky business comparing female artists to one another, shoehorning an artist into a limited referential framework due to, as Tori Amos once noted, there being "too many tits in the room". Yet the music Bat for Lashes makes seems to draw quite consciously on this genealogy, just as The Haunted Man is informed by Natasha Khan's tracing of her own bloodline. Ancestry, dreams and geography figure prominently here, supplanting the 'sword and sorcery' miscellany of 2006's Fur And Gold and 2009's Two Suns' more earthbound lyrical viewpoint.
An impressive third LP from Natasha Kahn, but somehow lacking heart. Wyndham Wallace 2012 With age comes maturity, and there’s no doubt that Natasha Khan’s third album under her chiropteran pseudonym, Bat for Lashes, sees her addressing adult themes in an adult fashion amidst adult surroundings. It’s something that’s helped by the fact that with silver and gold albums come bigger budgets, and The Haunted Man sounds very expensive indeed.