THE HAUNTED MAN
Bat for Lashes (the stage name of British singer-songwriter Natasha Khan) has often used her image to communicate where she’s at emotionally and artistically. For her first two albums (2006’s Fur And Gold and 2009’s Two Suns), she was the romantic nomad, decked out in feather headband, glittery eye shadow and flowing hair –– a look fit for conjuring mystical synthpop tales. On the cover of her latest record, she’s sans makeup, stark naked and carrying a guy across her back while starring impassively at the camera. Girlfriend wants us to know she’s older, has more baggage and is not as interested in making things pretty and easy.
And challenge us she does. On the title track, Khan actively resists her bag of tricks; instead of building to the chorus where you expect her to, she holds off in favour of an ambient section followed by a men’s choir chanting over a tribal beat. She hasn’t abandoned tunefulness, but it’s a lot less obvious. “All My Gold” mines the familiar Bat for Lashes territory with icy soprano vocals, electronic effects and dramatic refrain, but it’s one of the few tracks that could be classified as a crowd pleaser.
While there are some cool moments in this new collection, it all feels a bit vague. Bat for Lashes clearly decided she didn’t want to take the expected route and pump out another “Daniel”, but you get the feeling she hasn’t defined this new approach.