Now that I have your undivided attention, we can crack on. Let’s look past that NSFW record sleeve and get under the skin of Bat for Lashes. Natasha Khan has gained a reputation for being a little bit ‘kooky’. With a penchant for feathers, fancy dress and fairy tales, she’s received as much attention for her image as she has for her sound.
But her eccentricities are not simply skin deep. Across her two previous Mercury-nominated albums, Khan has showcased an imagination and natural flair that paint her in a world of her own.
But this time, Khan’s intent is quite literally laid bare on the album artwork alone. While she may be in the buff, the pose is not overly-sexualised – it’s just pure, raw and direct, and the music follows suit.
Opener ‘Lillies’ is pretty a sparse affair. With just warm fuzzy bass, electronic beats and delightful strings, Khan’s voice is at the forefront of your attention – enthralling and charged. But Khan successfully marries power with pop. The slick but sultry menace of latest single ‘All Your Gold’ is utterly sublime while the ecstatic choral celebration and sweet synth swells of ‘Oh Yeah’ carry it like an electro-hymn.
The album is a pretty diverse journey too: the gut-wrenching tenderness of ‘Laura’ is enough to annihilate the most stoic of men and the driving and elegant pop powerhouse of ‘A Wall’ is a monumental earworm.
The Haunted Man only really comes undone on ‘Horses of the Sun’ and ‘Rest Your Head’ – which seem uncharacteristically humdrum. But album is otherwise a near- flawless monolith of an achievement.
It’s a bewitching balance of pop, pleasure and pain. Her heartfelt plea on album closer ‘Deep Sea Diver’ sums it up pretty perfectly: “Baby let your hair down – it’s time to get enchanted”. Amen.
All of this and there’s not a headdress in sight. Bat for Lashes doesn’t need to hide behind fancy dress any more. Now she stands bare and exposed – with just the music doing the talking.