Bat For Lashes
The Haunted Man
When I was growing up, there was this story. It was about an emperor who had outgrown his ego and was trying desperately to be ahead of every curve. He hired the world’s best fashion designer to make him the most impressive and kingly gear ever seen. Long story short, he ends up walking around naked and everyone tells him it’s awesome because they want to be as cool as the king. All it takes, however, is one little kid to say, “You’re naked, you fucking idiot” for everyone else to finally feel comfortable telling the king the same thing. Bottom line: don’t walk around naked in front of kids.
I tell you that story because I am going to be that little kid today. A lot of nice things are being said about The Haunted Man, the third and latest effort from Bat For Lashes (aka Natasha Kahn). This is, without a doubt, her most stripped down album and though it is still full of lush synths and effected drum sounds, it does leave itself very open. This accomplishes two things, and both of them are good. The first is it gives the album a semi-spooky tone, which the title would have me believe is an artistic choice, and the second is allowing Kahn’s vocals to be the star. When her voice gets real big, the album shines and swells with all of the beauty people have come to expect from Bat for Lashes. Unfortunately, those are the rare moments.
Again, this album is supposed to be small, and I get that. But come on. This particular effort sounds like a collection of B-sides and rarities from Imogen Heap. And as cool as that would be, there is a reason those songs don’t make the cut. They become cooler because you weren’t supposed to hear them but when the entire album sounds like a bunch of songs that I wasn’t “supposed” to hear, you have a problem. And no, this album is not a pile of shit, but it misses the mark much more often than not.
The saving grace on this album is the lyrics. I know that is something that I almost never say, but when the music is generally this boring, you get to focus on the lyrics on the first pass, instead of the 4th or 5th listen. As always, good lyrics with a boring delivery are worth nothing so I have to admit that even when she’s being boring, Kahn finds a way to make these lyrics sound as personal as anyone singing anything.
I am left, dear reader, with a dilemma. As you can see, this album is generally boring but the vocal performance alone is spectacular. This album is a fuck. I want to like it so bad but I cannot, in good faith, tell you that the album is as great as I was hoping for. I suppose I could tell you something like “if you like (insert something), you’ll like this album” and all that shit but I won’t. I would suggest that you listen to this album, but don’t expect anything other than earnest vocal deliveries delicately laid over musical beds of rotten shit. Yep, that works.
Star Rating: A very complicated 2½ Stars
Track to Dig: “All Your Gold” – This is an example of how interesting this album could have been. The lyrics are personal and the vocal delivery is devastating AND the music is cool. If this were the whole album’s vibe, this would be one of the best albums of the year. Unfortunately, this is just a really great song on a weirdly average album.
**Bonus Track to Dig: “Laura” – Though the music is boring and monotonous, these lyrics will make you feel something. If Natasha Kahn doesn’t touch you with this one, you are absolutely dead inside.
Track to Miss: “Lillies” – This is the FIRST track on the album. When you’re first track is the track to miss, you’re fucked. Also, this song is boring as shit and makes me fall asleep. So, more accurately, this is the “Track to Miss Unless You’re Having Trouble Sleeping and Then It Will Help You Immensely”.
Jason R. Noble