“The Haunted Man” Bat For Lashes

Bat For Lashes is the stage name for UK singer-songwriter Natasha Khan. Her enticing mix of electro-folk, dreamy synths, and breathy croon has charmed her way right into the hearts of indie pop fans. “The Haunted Man” doesn’t deviate too much from her established sound, but it does sound like a much more confidant endeavor. Khan really comes into her own as an artist.

This growth is apparent right out of the gate with the opening track, “Lilies.” It’s a powerful piece where she utilizes an echoed synth to make for a very epic feel. All of her trademarks of dreamy, indie pop are apparent here like they’ve always been on previous releases. But what sets the song apart is her hauntingly, beautiful voice. Free from any overlay or production, her raw voice stands as a stark contrasts to the very spacious, electronic sounds around her. And yet she doesn’t drown in the mix and rather complements it nicely to create an elegant experience.

But while her powerful, production free voice is one element that’s powerfully present on a few songs (though none as close to “Lilies”) it’s far from the only draw. Khan experiments with different combinations of minimalistic guitar, ambient sound, and vocal layer effects to sweep you up but never make you feel like you’re buried in one long song.  “All Your Gold,” best exemplifies this with its slow build up to a room-filling symphony. “Horses Of The Sun,” brings in more of her folk elements with a galloping drum beat and heavy bass. But by far the greatest surprise is the enchanting piano ballad, “Laura,” which finds Kahn at her most vulnerable.

It’s a raw, emotion-wrought melody powered solely by her voice and piano. When she croons, ‘Uh, Laura you’re more than a superstar/You’ll be famous for longer than them/Your name is tattooed on every boy’s skin’ you’re stricken with the conflicting emotions of crushing sadness and hope in the way only her voice can do.

That’s not to say the album doesn’t have its shortcomings. After “Laura,” it’s pretty low on the surprises. While the last half of the album sounds good, the songwriting isn’t nearly as strong as the first half. Album closer “Deep Sea Diver” goes on for about three minutes too long and sounds like someone looping a sample ad nauseam. But the overall quality doesn’t drop too significantly towards the end.

           “The Haunted Man” shows Khan going three for three for strong album releases and displays significant growth. Her great pipes and her growing confidence in her creativity bodes well for a future album. Look for this best kept secret to take off if she hasn’t already.