Album review: The Haunted Man – Bat for Lashes

With Halloween just gone Bat for Lashes release their aptly named third album, The Haunted Man. Multi-instrumentalist Natasha Khan seems to already be getting in the spirit costume wise as the album cover portrays a completely starkers Ms Khan with an equally naked man draped around her neck reminiscent of the finest Russian mink in a fashion statement that even Lady Gaga might think twice about. But far from Gaga, it is Kate Bush that the artist seems to be most evoking on the album, with its discordant melodies and sparse arrangements producing an at times unnerving, but ultimately pleasurable listening experience.

Opening number ‘Lilies’ starts off lush and ethereal but morphs into a stomping synth leviathan utilising the loud-quiet-loud formula that features prominently on the album. The single ‘All your Gold’ is nice enough, but you cannot shake the fact that its sounds oddly reminiscent of that Gotye song people got fat too hyped over. The song ‘Oh Yeah’ has the single best opening of a song I have heard this year comprised of what sounds like the sea-gulls from Finding Nemo repeating the title over a drum line that sounds like it has been sampled from those Casio keyboards you used to find in the music room at secondary school, but before some-one starts stabbing at the ‘DJ! DJ!’ button it transforms into a Bjork-lite romp that ultimately disappoints but might grow on repeated listenings. But all the plaudits must be reserved for first single ‘Laura’, a masterpiece in understatement and minimalist song-writing, a simple meld of vocals and acoustic piano with flourishes of light orchestration that proves amazing song-writing beats gimmicks and over-production anytime. Soul-wrenching.

Other notable moments on the album include the Gregorian chant breakdown on the album’s title-track as well as the weird pan-pipey intro to the song Winter Fields. Overall, far from being horrific in keeping with the holidays, the album is a solid release from an artist who answers the question; ‘I’m a big fan of Kate Bush, can you recommend me any contemporary artists that are similar to her and if you say Florence and the Machine I’ll kick you in the head’.

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