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I first heard of Bat For Lashes when I went to see Radiohead at Manchester's Old Trafford Cricket Club in the summer of 2008 and Bat For Lashes was the support act.
After the show my partner downloaded the album and it has been played regularly from his ipod ever since, but it wasn't until a few months ago my partner discovered and pointed out to me that Bat For Lashes is not actually a band. Bat For Lashes is a stage name for the singer, Natasha Khan.
I am still adjusting to the idea that Bat For Lashes is not a band. It just sounds like a band and she had backing musicians when we watched her performance at Manchester and we assumed Bat For Lashes was a band back then too!
Bat For Lashes is a singer songwriter from London and she plays a range of instruments including piano, bass, guitar and synthesiser.
The latest album is her third release and is called The Haunted Man. It was released on 15th October 2012. We downloaded it as soon as it was released.
The album has 11 tracks on it.
~ The tracks ~
1) Lilies - The opening track to the album begins with soft vocals. The chorus has a deep synthesiser which fills the background behind the vocals. The artist hits all of the high notes in this track. Her vocals on this track remind me a bit of Annie Lennox.
2) All Your Gold - The music on this track has a lovely sound with plucked and muted strings repeated throughout the track. The vocals hold the melody over the strings, but the synthesiser also makes an appearance in the middle of this track.
The vocals at the beginning are very clear and you can hear every breath the artist takes in between each line of the song, which some people might like, but I have started to find irritating. It is one of those things that I now notice every time I listen to the track, like when someone tells you to watch that thing Gordon Brown does with his mouth after every time he speaks, from then on you can't help but look for it every time he makes an appearance on television.
The synthesiser kicks in about a minute into this track and that gladly masks the sound of every breath being taken.
It is one of my favourite tracks on the album. It is catchy and I love the sound of the strings.
3) Horses Of The Sun - The chorus of this track is really catchy and progressive. It has a lovely sound to it, with high guitar strings giving a softness to the song. It is accompanied by haunting echoing chants in the background, which add a darkness to the track, but it is still quite an upbeat track for Bat For Lashes.
This is another of my favourite tracks on the album. It is very catchy and the chorus has a great sound to it.
4) Oh Yeah - This song begins with some repeated singing of the words, 'Oh Yeah'. It sounds like male voices, but it could be a synthetic sound, I'm unsure. The synthesiser then starts up with a sound reminiscent of 1980's chart music, but the vocals soon follow, which give the track a much more modern sound. The artist sings the song using a very high pitched range of notes.
I don't dislike this song. To me, there is not much to the tune. It is nothing special and I don't feel that it is as strong as some of the other tracks on the album.
5) Laura - I love this track. It is my favourite track on the album. It is a beautiful soft piano melody with vocals that aren't so high that I can't sing along to it. The track has a dark element to it. The piano notes are low and strung out. I am a sucker for a gentle piano sing along song and I think this one really showcases the artist's voice.
6) Winter Fields - This track sounds quite dark and haunting. The synthesiser provides the music. The vocals are a bit more upbeat than on the other album tracks and the song has a catchy tune to it.
The lyrics set scenes of cold snowy fields, but still have an unsettling darkness in them eg. "Skidding rabbits make good paper ghosts," and "Oh mother, I'm scared to close my eyes".
I think it is a lovely song.
7) The Haunted Man - This, the title track to the album, has a little bit of a bland tune to it and it focuses more on the lyrics of the song than the music. It is not my favourite.
8) Marilyn - Another highlight of the album, this track offers a catchy tune and is progressive with a touch of darkness to it. It is another track which uses the synthesiser, but not in a cheesy 1980's way. It is really catchy and enjoyable.
9) A Wall - This is a catchy progressive tune accompanied by dark lyrics and again the synthesiser is used to add darkness to the track.
10) Rest Your Head - This song has a nice mellow beginning, progressing to a more upbeat chorus. The artist's fantastic vocals compliment the music and the lyrics nicely.
11) Deep Sea Diver - At nearly six and a half minutes long, this is the longest track on the album. Beginning slowly with soft vocals accompanied by calming backing music, the track progresses and introduces the synthesiser and piano creating a different sound. This is another lovely track.
~ My thoughts ~
I think this is a good album by Bat For Lashes, perhaps the artist's most chart-friendly offering to date.
It has some catchy songs with a rather unique sound, which the artist has defined. Each track is different and holds your interest throughout.
I have found all of the tracks on the album have a dark element to them and the, often, high pitched vocals compliment this.
The synthesiser gives another dimension to the music and it is used to create a different sound in every track it is played on.
I think the stand out tracks are Laura (my favourite), All Your Gold, Horses Of The Sun and Marilyn.
For me, the worst track is probably Oh Yeah, which I feel lacks the presence of a memorable tune, but it is still not terrible.
For most of the tracks on the album, the lyrics are deliberately cryptic and it is open to interpretation as to what they mean. I dislike the fact that it is not obvious what the singer is singing about as I feel that it puts a barrier between the listener and the artist. How can you justify ranting and raving to someone about your favourite song when all you know is the tune is great, but you don't actually have a clue what the song is about?
I would recommend this album as I think it is definitely worth a listen and the music behind it is fantastic. The vocals are excellent as well.
I prefer this album to her first release, Fur And Gold, which was released in 2007. However both myself and my partner favour the second album, Two Suns (released 2009) to The Haunted Man and feel that Two Suns had stronger tracks.
Sometimes I wonder where some artists pick their names from. Bat For Lashes may sound quite strange, reminding me of Bowling For Soup for the silliness of the name, although their sounds and composition are quite different. Whatever the name evokes for singer Natasha Khan, who came up with it, it's certainly a well liked name in the music industry, with her first two albums both being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. This gives "The Haunted Man", coming after a three year break since the previous album, a pretty tough act to follow.
The album opens with "Lilies", which is a wonderfully atmospheric song, reminding me in many ways of some Kate Bush songs in the opening vocals and later verses, but once the synthesiser comes in, it sounds a little like some old Portishead songs. This is a song that you can allow to drift over and around you and whilst the chorus does get a little repetitive in its simplicity as the songs goes on, it's quite a captivating opening.
There's quite a jaunty little bass beat on "All Your Gold" which makes me think of some early Gorillaz songs. There are some slightly strange musical arrangements that come in later on, but the vocal floats effortlessly over the top and whilst the song does get a little more of a pop sound later on and some of the music does come in over the vocals a little, this is still another decent track and the driving beat helps it zip past much quicker than the tempo would suggest.
"Horses of the Sun" is up next and marks a slight change of direction with an Arabian sounding drum beat starting the song which, with the vocal over the top gives it a calming feel akin to "Lilies". However, about two minutes in, the song suddenly changes and becomes far more standard pop-dance track, again not unlike some old Portishead material, but there are also parts that remind me a little of P. J. Harvey particularly when the music pauses briefly late on and the vocal stands alone.
The next track "Oh Yeah", starts with an African sounding vocal effect, but this is soon replaced with a synthesiser led pop-dance track that again sounds a lot like an old Kate Bush song, but this time more of a modern remix. There are a few more moments where the music seems a little too high in the mix and there are some strange sound effects again, but this track is a lot like "Lilies" in that you can let it drift over you, although it is a little more intrusive than the earlier song.
What comes next, however, is simply incredible. "Laura" starts with just a gentle piano with the vocal and carries on in this vein for the majority of the song, although it does add in more instrumentation as it progresses. What this gives you is a haunting and ethereal pop ballad with a beautiful vocal over a simple melody and a hugely effective lyric. This is a song you could have on repeat for hours and still be entranced by its beauty.
There's much more musical substance to "Winter Fields", which opens with pan pipes and then strings in an introduction that would work beautifully overlaid over a helicopter shot of fields covered with snow. Once the vocals come in, the song again takes on that Kate Bush air that has influenced many of the songs so far and whilst the overall effect may sound a little "made for television", it's still a beautiful track, both musically and vocally.
The title track is next up and "The Haunted Man" has a more modern feel to it, with the synthesiser beat over the back of the song adding a faint club feel to the vocal, suggesting the song is only a slight remix away from being a decent club song. This gets combined with a marching drum beat and male choir a couple of minutes in and somehow these disparate elements work together, particularly when the usual vocal comes in. There are certainly Portishead sounding influences coming over this track and whilst it is once again too powerful to allow to sweep over you like many of the earlier songs, it's very effective.
"Marilyn" is another song that seems to have several different elements to it, but which works well as a whole. There is a largely pop feel to the song, but with some synthesiser elements which hark back to an old Portishead song, or even some of the New Romantic songs from the 1980s. There are some weird samples and voices about three minutes in which I did feel disrupted the flow of the song a little, but by and large this is another slower paced song which is made perfect by the beauty of the vocals floating over the top of everything. This funny break and the overall busyness of some of the music again take this out of the relaxing type of song, but it's still not at all bad.
There's quite a change of direction for "The Wall", which is certainly the most up-tempo track on the album so far. It's got quite an electro-pop feel to it and wouldn't sound out of place on many a modern pop artists' albums at present. The vocals do hold some of the Kate Bush feel to them and with so much going on with the music, whilst this is quite up-tempo, it feels strangely generic and doesn't have any of the haunting feel or a particularly Bat For Lashes sound to it, so it feels slightly out of place with what has gone before.
"Rest Your Head" also has a heavy synthesiser feel to it, although at a slower tempo to start until a slight dance-pop drum beat comes in. This song works well in combination with the previous track, but once again it's particularly pop-dance generic and whilst it could well succeed as a club track, these two songs to stand out as being particularly ineffective in terms of the rest of the album.
Fortunately, the album closes with something a little more familiar. "Deep Sea Diver" opens with atmospheric strings and that haunting vocal which has worked so well so far. There are hints of Bjork and Kate Bush in the vocal and this is another down-tempo song that you can let drift over you. It lulls you so effectively that you don't realise it's over six minutes long and whilst there are some variations in the music once the drum beat comes in, this doesn't intrude in the same way as with some of the other tracks and it's a lovely ending to the album.
What Bat For Lashes has produced here is, apart from a couple of exceptions, an album of ethereal, simple beauty. Whilst I tend to prefer more upbeat and up-tempo works, this is a great album for when you want to do little but sit and contemplate at the end of a tough day or week. With so many nods towards Kate Bush and Portishead, this may not be the most original of albums, but it's certainly a very well crafted on. For as little as £6.97 for a brand new copy from Amazon, or several second hand copies for less than £5.00 including postage on eBay at the time of writing, the 11 tracks and nearly 52 minutes of simple yet effective music offer decent value for money if you like music you can relax to.