England’s Bat For Lashes, a.k.a.. Natasha Khan, follows up her Mercury Prize nominated 2007 debut Fur and Gold with Two Suns, another unique and compelling album of mystical indie-rock with shimmering vocals, proving she not only has a voice to be reckoned with, but is a voice to be reckoned with.
It is her magnificent voice that jumps out from the speakers and immediately demands attention. Khan coos radiantly with breathy intonations and captivating, multi-textured melodies that necessitates comparisons to other elite singers in this genre like Siouxsie Sioux (The Creatures, Siouxsie and the Banshees), Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond), Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Sinead O’Connor and even Bjork. But while the similarities abound, Bat For Lashes’ uniqueness comes from an unconventional musical perspective.
Seamlessly mixing mystical electronic soundscapes with dreamy synth-pop and tribal percussive stomps, the songs have a dreamy, mysterious flow and a lush underbelly of intriguing sounds. While Fur and Gold’s pop sensibilities were more immediately stimulating, it takes a while for the melodies of Two Suns to permeate through a more diffuse and narcotic ambience.
It’s not all eerily cool and eclectically vibrant however, as a couple of tracks amble in a more piano-based, Tori Amos-like ballad style where Khan explores the concept of two sides of one personality and moves the music in a different, less captivating direction. But as usual the vocals are no less captivating as Khan’s beautiful voice shines with an echoing elegance and keeps these tracks afloat.
Mostly though, the tropical beats are ornamented with layered instrumentation, euphonious keyboard melodies and a subtly shifting wallpaper of moody sonic textures, occasionally bursting out with a sublime dream-pop hook, as in the exquisitely crafted pop of “Daniel” and the peppy and tuneful “Pearl’s Dream”. But while the music changes tenor by exploring contrasting moods, Khan’s hauntingly beautiful voice remains the focal point, singing passionately and infusing each track with emotional energy. Articulating in an assortment of vocal styles ranging from a catlike prowess with guttural intensity to a delicate and passionate sensuality and even a waif-like dreaminess with crystalline diva chirps.
Given the comparisons to some innovative and well established female artists, the promise shown on Fur and Gold and the two year anticipation of it’s follow-up, some might consider Two Suns a comedown. But the beauty of it lies in the way that repeated plays will reveal a similarly astounding record, as it takes time to absorb it’s cinematic scope and unfamiliar radiance. Plus it’s way better than most music out there today and shows Bat For Lashes still has room to grow into its next album.
Recommended If You Like (RIYL): The Creatures, My Brightest Diamond, Kate Bush, Tori Amos, Bjork and Sinead O’Connor
Recommended Tracks: “Daniel”, “Pearl’s Dream” and “Sleep Alone”