First Listen: Bat For Lashes ‘Two Suns’
Bat For Lashes
Bat For Lashes has had a pretty good career so far hasn’t she? Her new album, ‘Two Suns’, comes after she released her hugely acclaimed debut ‘Fur And Gold’ in 2006, got nominated for the 2007 Mercury Music Prize, gaining a mass of mainstream support for her single ‘What’s A Girl To Do?’ and eventually finishing off the summer with a support slot for Radiohead on their Victoria Park London shows. She even had her own little masks made for her at those gigs, like feathery eyes made of feathers. She’s wowed audiences with her haunting live performances, became a fashion icon with her elfin-like trademark make-up and headbands and wooed the hearts of many with her otherworldly songs. But The Fly will pull their head out of her arse now for a second and decide this: is ‘Two Suns’, her new album, any good?
The start of this song sounds a bit like the music that might go over the top of a scene in Hollyoaks when everyone’s been killed after a bomb went off in Tony’s Bistro. Natasha sings choir-like about a ‘citttttttyyyyyyy’ before thumping war drums pound. There is an absolutely distinctive Yeasayer influence on ’Glass’ (probably because Yeasayer collaborated with Khan on the album), with an idiosyncratic, tribalistic beat and cosmic choruses that throw you into a totally different universe. It’s magical but there’s no real meat to it all.
This track has a very Tori Amos feel, bridging the gap between ethereal folk singing and a 90s dance feel. But then the chorus sounds a little bit reminiscent of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’, but the word ‘Lonely’ instead of ‘Jolene’. It’s ok, but now we’ve recognised the Dolly Parton comparison on ‘Sleep Alone’ we can’t really hear anything else and have just started thinking of Parton’s baps.
‘Moon And Moon’
A light piano baptistically bathes the introduction to ‘Moon And Moon’ with a melody that you can imagine was heavily influenced by Amos. It builds and builds until a strange, tinned choir chime in the chorus. This song merely tickles the ears; it’s a gentle lullaby and nothing more.
‘Daniel’ is a proper 80s song, with a more electronic tinge than the previous tracks, and a really beautiful Final Fantasy-esque violin instrumental. It’s going to be her new single and definitely one of the stand-out tracks. The pace is very Cure-like; it sounds very much like ‘A Forest’ when it kicks in.
‘Peace Of Mind’
Continuing on from the electronic feel of ‘Daniel’, ‘Peace Of Mind’ begins with a vibrating key effect, over a lute-sounding instrument and then a gospel choir, who repeat back Khan’s words like in Elbow’s ‘Ribcage’. This song is a distant desert-like track, with a beautiful, hazy 60s feel that really shows off some excellent Nico-tinged vocal arrangements.
‘Siren Song’ is a love song about ‘always being happy to kiss you’ and promising ‘in the morning I’ll make you breakfast’, that is quite heart rendering if a little like the backing music to a Skins scene or something. Lyrically it’s just teetering on the cliché, but once the chorus kicks in it’s a sonic, urgent and stormy melody that is laced in total passion and sincerity. The end of the track cascades in to a thunderstorm of drums and a fading Khan vocal.
Another Yeasayer-aided track, ‘Pearl’s Dream’ is loaded with hand claps and a dance sensibility. Layered vocals are met with a paaaaaarping keyboard effect. It’s a pretty funky ditty but it just seems a little without direction, there’s no climatic ejaculation of instruments, pulse stopping vocals or deeply affecting darkness. It just is.
A slow burning introduction of wistful, angelic vocals kick off ‘Good Love’. We say introduction but this track doesn’t really do anything until 2 minutes in. And even then the only change is that she starts doing the talky singing about ‘white magic’, ‘true love’ and ‘the magician’. It’s a simplistic, light track that sounds like a nice cool breeze on a really hot day. Eugh, what has this album done to our metaphors?
This song has a little more substance to the previous song, it’s dark and brooding like a PJ Harvey track. But ‘Two Planets’ sounds a little bit lost and confused, fusing the battle drums, incessant hand claps, and a load of other thick instrumental tangles with untamed vocals that project into the abyss. It kind of smacks of a Bjork track, only not as mesmeric or powerful.
Just listened to ‘Travelling Woman’ and forgot I’d listened to it. Listened to it again. It’s a song with a piano and some nice vocals. The End.
‘The Big Sleep’
The album’s final song has the Scott Walker influence, a cinematic, haunting warbling duet that fades into a distant piano chime. And it’s over.
The Fly know Khan isn’t on the same level yet, but after falling arse over tit for the new PJ Harvey album ‘Two Suns’ just seems a bit pithy, wishy-washy and other adjectives that end with ‘hy’. It’s definitely not a bad album, Khan is undoubtedly a magical, creative, inventive creature, but this album will probably not gain her anymore followers than she already has.