Bat for Lashes
Natasha Khan has found her comfort zone. And it’s a strange one. Her ambitious second album Two Suns looks, sounds and feels as if Khan wrote each song while sitting around a campfire with magical creatures. No, seriously. There’s a definite otherworldly atmosphere to the tracks.
Two Suns shifts markedly from Khan’s previous material. Fans who cut a rug to Bat for Lashes in the past, won’t find many danceable songs in this new realm. Her first album, Fur and Gold, lived and breathed with its CocoRosie-esque single “What’s a Girl To Do?” This time around, Khan weaves a much more fantastical web both sonically and lyrically, producing several gorgeous tracks and a few forgettable ones.
Khan’s new sound is decidedly more mature than her last, and that begins with its progressive instrumentation and vocals. Standout track “Glass” chills the listener, behind Khan’s range on the hauntingly beautiful verses and a chorus that is effortlessly guided by ghostly vocals to the accompaniment of tribal drums. Elsewhere, Khan flaunts her obvious similarities to Bjork, letting her voice wax and wane like bright strokes illuminating a blank canvas. “Siren Song” and “Good Love” seem to transport the listener to that fairy-tale world only Khan, the Icelandic electro-queen and a few others inhabit.
There’s brave diversity in Bat for Lashes’ new sound. First, “Peace of Mind” plays out as a minimalist, folksy movement. Later, “Sleep Alone” comes off like Fleetwood Mac and Heart at a pow-wow. Two Suns is almost unsettling in its scope, even as the signature synth and programming and vocals become familiar friends.
Of course, there are a couple of disappointments. Upon first listen, it’s rather easy to dismiss many of the tracks as sounding too much alike. “Two Planets” starts out promising enough, but gradually becomes a confusing hodge-podge of beats and effects. Likewise, synth-heavy “Pearl’s Dream” tries hard to reach the pop prowess of Fur and Gold but just doesn’t quite make it there.
More successful is “Daniel”, the first single from the album — this track seems to be the clearest with its intentions. Like the rest, it’s dreamy. But it’s paced by a distinct 1980s-copping beat — definitely worthy of dancing.
Throughout Two Suns there are surprises and new directions and free-ranging experiments. But one thing is consistent: Khan’s voice remains beautifully pure. Lyrically, she sings about lost love and mystical landscapes — and her vocals bear strong resemblance to the likes of Kate Bush and Blonde Redhead.
Sometimes though, you wish Khan would stop sounding so crystalline and get a little dirty. Pure can get boring — and Khan just barely avoids the description when it comes to her weaker songs. However, with the light and sound of “Glass” and “Siren Song”, Bat for Lashes succeeds in guiding you through her magical world, full of strange spirits, mythical creatures and interminable drum circles. (Astralwerks, 2009)
By Chelsey Pettyjohn