* Prices may differ from that shown
Bat for Lashes plays a folky, mystical genre of music, not often heard before and can not really be compared to any one. Seperate from her peers such as FLorence and the Machine, yet still regarded as good, the music she creates carries such charisma and mystique that it's hard not to get swept up into this excellent second album. Darker and more enigmatic than the previous album, many of the lyrics refer to duality, especially to her "alter-ego" Pearl. She says she "went mad in NYC and wanted to become an entirely diffferent person" and so donned a blonde wig and tried to see life as a different being.
Many of the songs featured dramatic drum beats, such as Glass and Two Planets, and her voice often mesmerizes and is never strained despite hitting an incredible range. You are captivated and dragged into her new found world. A range of instruments are used in the LP, including some that she bought from a antique shop that creates a old yet fresh sound, heard in Daniel, the lead off single, giving her her first major hit. It may feel like im overstating the quality, but this song is just a dream, its melodies pulsate in the background as she sings over a fantastic beat. It really is dream like quality.
The album is so full of beauty and hits such resonance it's hard to pick standout songs. Moon and Moon shows her at her most raw, a piano complements her swirling voice in a very stripped back yet still captivating track. Daniel as mentioned before truly pulsates and sticks in your mind, but the drama of Siren Song is perhaps the major standout, with Natasha Khan (should probably mention her name) really switching into "Pearl" mode "My name is Pearl, and I love you, the best way I know how" suggesting she is just lost in her new found fame and trying to escape from what she loves just every now and again.
Having seen her live at Birmingham, I can say the crowd was entirely muted. Not through boredom, but through absolute respect, and just being so engrossed in the music. During smaller gigs, you can expect to hear a dull buzz of chat over the quieter songs, but not here. Normally you can expect wolfwhistles through out, but not one after the first song. Truly a testament to her music, she played a huge set spanning her first two songs, Pearls Dream and Two Planets getting the audience dancing, and Daniel being the only song with a singalong, due to, I believe, sheer awe.
(Two Planets: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lI7Z83_IdJk Full rights to user! )
Throw in collabarations with Yeasayer and Scott Walker on the truly beautiful closer, Big Sleep and you have one of the most underrated albums possibly ever. Peaking at #5 before quickly falling out of the charts, this album is a true gem, still waiting to be truly unearthed.
Bat for Lashes is Natasha Khan, a singer-songwriter, who hails from Brighton. Her success to date has been cult, stemming from her excellent debut album 'Fur and Gold' which was released originally in 2006. She nearly had the kiss of death when it was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize (research Gomez and Ms Dynamite for further details) in 2007, at one stage hotly tipped, but the 'honour' went to Klaxons for their debut.
'Two Suns' is the difficult second album, though in this review I will try to persuade you the reader, that this is anything but difficult to listen to and digest. At this early stage in its release (im writing this a week after release) it has been well received both critically, and commercially; lead single 'Daniel' has become her first song to break into the Top 40 and the album of this review is currently placed in the top five, some 43 places higher than 'Fur and Gold' ever achieved. But since when did chart positions actually matter? Probably not unless you're Louis Walsh, or Simon Cowell cooking up some boy band in a lab somewhere. The key question is 'is this album any good?' This is my track by track opinion on my first album review in 6 months, apologies in advance for the rustiness: -
'''Glass''' - The opening of the album is a total contrast to Fur and Gold. Where 'Horse and I' on her debut was immediate with rhythmic piano, 'Glass' begins with Natasha's glorious voice, spoken voice. The words are from 'Song of 'Soloman' before the instruments kick in, and kick in they do. The drums are phenomenal amid the backdrop of Natasha's stunning vocal range. The lyrics to the music of Bat for lashes is very imagery-driven...."went over the sea, what did I find? A thousand crystal towers, a hundred emerald cities". It may be a contrast to the opening of her first album, but equally as poignant and strong. 9/10
'''Sleep Alone''' - Having read some reviews of this album, I have found many tracks likened to the work of Fleetwood Mac. I would say that this is probably lazy journalism as Bat for lashes is, in my humble opinion, very unique in style. However, this track is the only Bat for lashes track where I could see some other artist in style, that artist being Tori Amos. That is Tori Amos during her experimental years ('From the choirgirl hotel' etc) and not the 'Cornflake girl'. Especially vocally where again Natasha is fantastic in range. Another strong track 9/10
'''Moon and Moon''' - A simple piano melody starts; emphasising that the music can either be bold, or minimal; it doesn't matter when the voice is perfect. Clearly a love song, the delicate effect is a perfect continuation of the album. A couple of the lyrics such as "where's my bear to lick me clean" are slightly eye-brow-raising from reading but somehow it makes sense with the music. 9/10
'''Daniel''' - Lead single and one that is clearly making people sit up and take notice. The album version is slightly different from the single one but only in the sense that it has been butchered down for radio purposes. It slots in perfectly at track 4 and is a major highlight on the album 10/10
'''Peace of mind''' - Probably the only song that I just find myself skipping (and feel guilty because of it). The track is minimal like 'Moon and Moon' but this time with a strummed guitar. For me it just doesn't get going, probably not helped in its cause by being straight after one of the standout tracks 6/10
'''Siren song''' - The piano makes a welcome return on here and flows on from the previous track in regards to tempo but builds up musically when it reaches the chorus. "My names pearl and I love you....my blonde curls slice through your heart" illustrate an alter ego to Natasha's first person lyrics. A quick return to form 9/10
'''Pearl's Dream''' - Continuing the theme of 'Pearl', this is my favourite track on the album and sounds like an obvious follow up single to 'Daniel'. It has a more straightforward structure than most of the songs which makes it stand out commercially but it's the way the track builds to a crescendo mixing various tracks of vocals. Its layers are well thought out and merge amazingly well. 10/10
'''Good Love''' - This time the song starts with an organ and builds up with instruments, with a piano melody over the top being most prominent. "Now I am searching and ill do it alone, this queen of hearts dancing on her throne...but I need sorrow like sorrow is the drug, so will I ever find that place they call 'good love?'" probably illustrates the running theme of the album better than other songs. 9/10
'''Two Planets''' - Another spoken voice beginning that again leads to a crescendo of music, building up and up; this time with a vibraphone and claps. It seems that it doesn't matter what instrument is on the album, or her music, as long as it compliments her voice and makes it point then it is included. This is welcome to all the mandatory pop music that it out there. 8/10
'''Travelling Woman''' - Once again the tempo is fairly slower, much more than the first album. This track is piano driven but fits in with the style of the album and has more evidence of Natasha's brilliant lyrics "hang on travelling woman, don't sacrifice your plan, cause it will come back to you, before you lose it on the man". Although perhaps female-perspective driven, it isn't in the out and out feminist ways of say Alanis Morrissette, or even Tori Amos, in the mid 90's. The music doesn't seem to be making that point though it may seem so in writing 8/10
'''The Big Sleep''' - Album closer doesn't up the tempo, arguably even slower. This song is again Piano-led but a duet with veteran artist Scott Walker. His dreary vocals compliment those of Natasha's and results in a sombre end to the album. 7/10
Overall, the album flows terrifically well. Each track is obviously positioned to make the album listenable by pressing play at the beginning before digesting-how albums should be. Being a big fan of her first album, I had high expectations of this effort but admittedly it took me until the third or forth listen to really get it. That's why I think if you are unaware of her music then Fur and Gold maybe a better introduction. I don't think I would have given this enough persistence if I hadn't heard Fur and Gold previously. Tracks like 'Prescilla', 'Trophy' and 'Horse and I' from the first record are worth downloading if you are just after getting an indication on whether this artist is for you.
However, if you are a fan of the first album then I don't think this would disappoint. It is different in style and tempo, as discussed above, yet I don't think it stems too far out of the unique style that makes Bat for Lashes. I have had the pleasure of seeing her live and she is an amazing performer who I think will go on to write more and more quality albums such as this. If this is the 'difficult' second album then I will count down the seconds until she releases album three.
This is an updated version of my review on ciao as dtait07. In the past two weeks she has been nominated again for the mercury music prize!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Sleep Alone
3 Moon and Moon
5 Peace Of Mind
6 Siren Song
7 Pearl's Dream
8 Good Love
9 Two Planets
10 Travelling Woman
11 The Big Sleep