Natasha “Bat For Lashes” Khan’s debut album “Fur and Gold” picked up some significant critical acclaim and a Mercury Music Prize nomination, but I’ll shamefully admit it took a supporting slot alongside Radiohead in 2008 followed by dropping one of the best singles of the decade to put her firmly on my radar. Since then, her infrequent but consistently captivating slices of stately pop have tended to be a high point of the year they’ve landed in.
Her latest offering, “The Bride”, is a concept album about a bride whose hubby-to-be dies in a car crash en route to the wedding, and her struggle to cope in the aftermath. The words “concept” and “album” tend to strike untold peril into my heart when paired together, but while some of the record’s more self-consciously “art” moments – the literal car crash at the beginning of “Honeymooning Alone” or the spoken word “Widow’s Peak” – stray a little far into must-make-a-statement territory for my tastes, but generally speaking I found it an impressively affecting tale.
More impressive, though, is the music. Khan has always had a talent for marrying tight melodies with expansive soundscapes, and lays down early benchmarks to this effect with the gorgeous “Joe’s Dream” and pulsating “In God’s House”. Latest single “Sunday Love” serves up a tense, frenetic piece of crystalline pop that doesn’t manage to touch the heights of “Daniel”, but gets pretty close to its shoelaces. After a slight mid-album lull high on atmosphere and drama but a tad low on great songs, things come together again for a great finale. “If I Knew” is one of Khan’s best ever tracks, a wilting piano ballad to melt the stoniest of hearts, “I Will Love Again”’s plucked bass procession works its way under your skin and doesn’t let go, and “In Your Bed” manages to round things off in both uplifting and devastating fashion. Highly recommended.
- Andy West