Album Review

Bat for Lashes "The Haunted Man"

Chad W. Lutz
One look at the album cover art just about says it all. Known for a style I can only describe as baroque and Avant-garde synth electronic folk, Bat for Lashes pushes the boundaries of conventional pop with its 3rd studio release The Haunted Man. The album hit shelves and digital storefronts on October 12, 2012, to mixed but mostly positive reviews and debuted at #64 on the Billboard Top 200.

Bats for Lashes consists of an ever-changing lineup headlined by front woman Natasha Kahn, whose vocals and instrumentals are like a cross between Björk and Fiona Apple. Songs featured on The Haunted Man offer a dreamy, sometimes eerily nightmarish landscape of melody and harmony. At times the tracks are tribal and reflect the more primal nature of Kahn’s music. Lyrics touch on everything from Greed and Lust to Love and Loss and all heavily feature use of synth piano and drums in addition to the frenetic, unhinged and evocative vocals.

The 11-track LP serves primarily as the brainchild of Natasha Kahn and co-producer Dan Carey, with fellow producers Rob Ellis and David Kosten lending a hand on several songs, as well. The shortest song on the album, “Winter Fields”, comes in at 3:41, while the longest, and last, “Deep Sea Diver”, plays out in 6:19. The average song runs roughly 4:00 long.

On July 24, 2012, Bat for Lashes released the sullen and sultry, “Laura” (4:25) feat. British songwriter Justin Parker as a single available for download. Easily the most accessible song on The Haunted Man, “Laura” tells the story of a heartbroken young woman abandoned by time and yearning for the past. This is where Kahn shines; it’s just her and her vocals, a brooding piano, and a backing orchestral track that leaves you staring out the window in wonder of life. The lyrics are uplifting and suggest that no matter how terrible things get, it’s important to remember there are those out there who think the world of us and to never give up. “Oh Laura, you’re more than a superstar.”

Overall The Haunted Man entertains, and at times dazzles. The average listener, however, may only find a few of the tracks palatable. Over-use of synth gets old around the 6th song and is only broken up by the album’s lone single. The sometimes flexed and strained, snoozing, whimsical tones of Kahn’s vocals also become repetitive after awhile and may take away from the desired experience for some listeners; this isn’t the type of album you put on repeat for long road trips or backyard, block party barbeques. A casual listen here or there is probably about as much play as tolerated, with perhaps a consistent homage only to “Laura” and one or two other tracks that catch and cage the ear. The Haunted Man is worth the download if only for the experience, but probably won’t make it onto anybody’s favorite-album-of-the-year list.