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- The Haunted Man by Bat For Lashes
8/10 Clinton Staff review, 12 October 2012
When people tell me they like Florence and the Machine, rather than tell them my true feelings on the subject, I have started to say, yes but have you heard Bat For Lashes? This has been often met with a stony silence. That’s the difference I guess between an artist who has gone stratospheric and those who wait in the margins - still a lot of people haven’t heard of her.
It took a few goes before I realised Natasha Khan was more than just another kooky singer songwriter. I thought ‘Daniel’ was a superb song that somehow you never ever grow tired of and found most of ‘Two Suns’ hugely enjoyable. Concerns about this third album spring up immediately with the now kinda notorious sleeve art depicting a naked Natasha Khan carrying a waif of a lad with his arms and legs covering her nether regions. It’s truly awful in every way, tacky, not particularly tasteful, horribly staged. I’m sure she is making her own decisions with her career but the look on her face is one of being forced into it at gunpoint.
Anyway the music contained within is somehow neither better nor worse than I expected. First things to get out the way - it is not a patch on ‘Two Suns’ and lead single, the understated ballady ‘Laura’ is wholly unrepresentative. The first track ‘Lilies’ is a bit horrible - who invented the reverb drenched power breakdown? U2? Then shoot em. Better is ‘All Your Gold’ which has a lot of the famed Bat For Lashes touches, shades of Kate Bush, nice harp like sounds culminating in a decent, if polished offering.
There are an awful lot of people playing on this record, ‘Horses of the Sun’ (whaaaaat?) is okay, it veers around a bit with some decent percussive-led instrumentation, but never truly convinces. ‘Oh Yeah’ recovers from its gospel-ish opening with a decent ‘80s synth stab and crap drum machine which suits her voice more than the polished stuff found elsewhere. The lovely ‘Laura’ follows - a delicious ballad...just on the right side of schmaltz. It just...just...has something lacking that stops it from attaining classic status - a clunky lyric doesn’t help. It’s very hard to say whether this is a decent album or not; I’d say that its bigger production values lean more towards your Florence’s than I’d hoped for, it’s definitely flawed and a bit laboured in places but gets better as it goes on and the later songs are more ‘her’ than the first few which seem a little over-thought.
Even at her most uninspired I feel Bat For Lashes is way ahead of any of her contemporaries, possessing not only a lovely voice but also a way with a wandering melody and in David Kosten a producer who is always inventive, and wholly sympathetic to her songs.
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