Back in 2010, Bat for Lashes (aka Natasha Kahn) had enough material to make an album. “But actually I want to take more time with this one,” she told Billboard, “because I’ve been on tour for so long and I think it’s boring to write songs about being on tour.” Allowing herself that space for development was a wise decision.
Instead of a navel-gazing road record, The Haunted Man is eleven tracks of intricately varied yet perfectly cohesive material – a sort of pop music lasagna. Like any layered meal, this dish benefited from patience, care, and all the extra kicks she had time to throw in. There’s some Tori Amos, a strong dose of Björk, and a dash of St. Vincent in the mix. Trace flavors of Yeasayer, Kate Bush, Radiohead and Cat Power are present as well. And of course, if you’re looking at the racy record cover, there’s the notable addition of Jessie J’s blunt bob haircut framing Ms. Kahn’s strikingly beautiful face.
Kicking off the record with the magnificent “Lilies,” was yet another smart choice. The track is as engaging as it gets: lyrics that wax poetic without getting obnoxious, a driving electronic element in that Little Bear sweet-spot (not too hard, not too soft!) and a triumphant refrain that sticks to your brain like super glue. Lead single “All Your Gold,” follows with a muted bass line a la Gotye – a good pick for easy radioplay. Other standouts include “Oh Yeah,” the sonic lovechild of BT’s “Blue Skies,” and Yeasayer’s “Love Me Girl,” and “Laura,” a ballad already marked for greatness by tastemaker DJ Nic Harcourt.
Though the borrowed feel might bog another singer down, the similarities between Kahn and other artists seem to enhance her work. While The Haunted Man does not break new ground, Ms. Kahn’s mélange is strong, enjoyable, and definitely worth the wait.