Bat for Lashes Ė The Haunted Man
Record Label: Parlophone
Release Date: October 11th 2012
Over the last couple of years, Iíve grown to really love and appreciate indie-rock, and indie-pop music. Every so often, I find a band or record that really takes me by surprise. British outfit Bat for Lashes, and their new record Absolutepunk.net sent me a list of things to review, and one record that really caught my attention was Bat for Lashes The Haunted Man, which was released last October. For whatever reason, this record escaped my radar, but now Iím finally listening to it, and Iím absolutely in love with this record. Iíve written in plenty of reviews that records can be rather derivative, or generic, for the lack of a better word. This record is neither of them, in all honesty. Itís indie-pop, indie-rock, baroque-pop, piano-pop, there is a lot to be taken from this record, which is a great sign of its lasting value. I was very surprised at this record, because I had no clue what to expect, which is the best part, really. I was vaguely familiar with Bat for Lashes aka British singer Natasha Khan. Iíve heard of her, and heard about this record, but never gave it a listen, for whatever reason. Now that I have, Iím metaphorically slapping myself, because this a classic case of I wish Iíve listened to this artist/band much sooner, especially because I absolutely adore this kind of music. As I mentioned earlier, there is a lot to be taken from this record, and at a length of 51 minutes, thatís great, because thereís a lot here. Not to mention it doesnít drag on, or seem derivative, either; it all flows together nicely, but remaining fresh and unique at the same time. In fact, indie website Pitchfork praised lead single ďLauraĒ as being the best new track of 2012, I assume, which is an interesting feat, because Pitchfork is a site thatís very hard to please at times. Regardless, though, The Haunted Man has Khan telling the listeners a story for 51 minutes, essentially. Each song has its own atmosphere, its own vibe, and just has its own sound, for the lack of a better term. Every song is different, and for being a rather long record, it really keeps my interest throughout the whole thing. I have a love/hate relationship with records that a bit long, as in clocking in at over 45 minutes, because to me, thatís a very nice length of a record, depending on a lot of things, such as whether or not itís generic, derivative, bland, etc, etc. This record is none of those things, as Iíve mentioned earlier, but rather, a lot more. Moving onto Khan herself, and not just the overall music, her voice is something to marvel at as well; she manages to use her voice to her advantage on every song, and in every single song, she uses it well. Her lyrics are another thing that really stuck out to me on here, because when I said she tells a story for 51 minutes, thatís the impression I get. Every song tells a small story, but it seems as though the whole record is a bit story itself. Lyrics and vocals are two things that really strike me at first, because that can really make or break a record for me, and it makes sense, because most people notice vocals first, because thatís the forefront of a band/artist, but thatís not the only thing that should account for your enjoyment of a record or band, either. With that being said, letís take a look at this record and see how haunted it truly is, shall we?
The record begins with ďLillies,Ē and to say this track sets the stage for the record is a misconception. It starts it off wonderfully, but itís rather off-putting, merely because itís not what the whole record entails. It immediately begins with Khan singing, ďAgain tonight, I sang a song. A prayer, if you willĒ and these lyrics here are really interesting, because it almost seems like sheís introducing the record itself, although itís part of the actual song. But it only takes a few seconds for her voice to appear. The beginning of the song is rather misleading as well, because itís very soft, slow, and relaxing, to say the least. But the song picks up a little bit for the chorus, and skittering keyboards and electronics show up to bring the song to an even higher place. If there is one way this song sets the stage for the record, itís the length of the song itself. Itís about 5 minutes, which is the average length on this record. Most of the songs are between 4 Ė 6 minutes, which is pretty good. This song isnít necessarily my favorite, but it does start the record off quite strongly. It also shows off Khanís vocals nicely as well. This isnít the strongest track, but itís nice, nonetheless. Second track ďAll Your GoldĒ continues this trend; this is another indie-pop track that has a nice drum loop running throughout, and while the music itself isnít too interesting here, itís Khanís voice and her lyrics that really are the driving force of this. I donít want to say that her voice and her lyrics drive the whole record, because itís definitely interesting and unique throughout. It seems the record does switch from the lyrics and Khanís voice to being the centerpiece, and the music itself. ďAll Your GoldĒ is a track where the lyrics and her vocals do take center stage, but some tracks, on the other hand, both aspects of the record are in sync with one another, specifically third track ďHorses of the Sun.Ē This is easily my favorite track on the record, because it really sums up what Bat for Lashes is all about. The lyrics are haunting, the accompanying music and Khanís voice help to paint the picture that the lyrics are representing. The chorus, however, is really interesting, because itís very catchy indie-pop, so itís quite a departure from the verses. Weíre only about three songs in, and the record is off to a brilliant start.
Moving on, fourth track ďOh Yeah,Ē is one of the weaker songs on the record, at least, lyrically. The refrain is literally ďOh yeah.Ē Yeah, thatís not up to par with a song like ďLaura,Ē which appears later on. Thankfully, though, the music itself and Khanís voice carry this track beautifully. Itís got a very ambient indie-pop sound throughout this track, which is about five minutes. This leads me to something else about the record that I absolutely adore Ė at no point, does the record begin to drag on, as in, it may be a rather lengthy record, but at no point, does anything feel like itís dragging on. It all sounds very cohesive together, and an overall, wonderful record. Back to the record at hand, though, the last 20 seconds or so of ďOh YeahĒ fade into a piano riff, which leads into lead single ďLaura,Ē as I mentioned earlier. This song is wonderful, because itís definitely different from the songs that the listener has just heard; itís a piano-based song, and lyrically, itís absolutely brilliant. This is another song where both the lyrics, and the music are great, and work so well together. After this song, the record doesnít necessarily slow down, and the songs are enjoyable, but they donít do as much for me as the first tracks do. ďWinter FieldsĒ is a nice track that talks about a winter day, and it works for this time of year (as I write this, itís literally snowing outside my window), but it doesnít do a lot for me. Next track is the title track, and this is a REALLY interesting one, because it features male vocals, almost like a choir of some kind. In a way, this song really reflects the whole record, because itís quite a haunting song. Khanís vocals are also what I would describe as haunting as well; they certainly leave a lasting impression. The rest of the record is really interesting, but the real highlight is last track ďDeep Sea Diver.Ē This is the longest song at about 6 and a half minutes, but itís wonderful. Itís a great closing track, and ends the album nicely. Itís got an indie-pop vibe with skittering electronics and keys running through out as other songs on the record have, this is a rather slow track, but not too slow. Thereís even a piano riff that runs through this song, and itís absolutely gorgeous. Thatís really how I would describe this record. The last couple minutes of this song and the record are very ambient and feature Khan singing lots of wonderful ďOohsĒ over the ambient piano and synth riffs that have been playing throughout the song. It ends the album on a very quiet note, which is good, because it leaves me with a very lasting impression. Overall, this is a great indie-pop record, to say the least. Ms. Khan is a wonderful songwriter who really knows her craft well. Only three albums under her metaphorical, but this is easily a wonderful piece of music. I wish I had listened to this record last year, because if I did, this wouldíve been on my end of the year list without a doubt.