12 April 2009

Bat for Lashes: "Two Suns"

What a fascinating name for a band: Bat for Lashes. It reminds me of the great names of bands in music, the ones that make you sit back and wonder about for hours what it can possibly mean. To name a few, the Cure (to what?), Muse (to inspire or to contemplate over something?), Angelic Upstarts (oxymoron?), Sleeper (someone sleeping or a text or movie that gains fame after the fact), and Cut Copy (the computer functions or to stop copying). So, Bat for Lashes, could it mean a physical baseball bat to give a few lashes with? Or, could it mean eye lashes for the mammal a bat? Or, could it mean to wink repeatedly, batting your lashes? The only thing that fascinates me more than the name is the new album, “Two Suns.”

Released 6 April 2009, “Two Suns” is the effort of Natasha Khan, who assumes the moniker Bat for Lashes. Khan wrote this album while living in New York City, where she would spend many evenings out, trying to live a life outside of her own experiences and expectations. She named this persona of hers, Pearl. She wrote this album, as the title itself implies, from two different perspectives: that of the Anglo-Pakistani Khan and the nightlife loving Pearl. As is arguable, the greatest composers/lyricists have always had the ability to write from outside of their perspectives, creating the most sincere fiction that contains truth.

The album opens with “Glass,” very sedate and ethereal in the beginning, but shifting to a slightly faster, almost tribal rhythm. That sort of sound and textures is carried through the second song, “Sleep Alone,” incorporating a bit more electronic sounds, but it is the third song, “Moon and Moon,” where you see the depth of the craftsmanship; shifting to a piano, almost as a nod to Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan, the song has an acoustic foundation, with ethereal vocals and backgrounds. (Similarly done on the song “Siren Song.”) Shifting between personas, the fourth song, “Daniel,” incorporates a more pop-dance element, while retaining its sense of indie. I will avoid a song-by-song recap, but believe me that the album is captivating, shifting between persona, perspectives, and the constant battle between electronic and acoustic elements competing for the spotlight. All the way to the final song, “The Big Sleep,” (featuring Scott Walker), the album continues to shift between momentums, but at the end, the music fades away, almost as if into a dream. “How can it be the last show... No more spotlights coming down from heaven; it’s goodbye, it’s curtain.” Foreshadowing the dismal end, the album comes to a close, reminding me of “Macbeth” – “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.” Except this is not sound and fury, it is introspection at its best (“But in a good-bye bed, with my arms around your neck, into our love the tears crept; just catch in the eye of the storm and as my heart ran round, my dreams pulled me from the ground, forever to search for the flame, for home again…” from “Daniel”). This is not a tale told by an idiot, but a crafty songwriter, who is able to deliver the obvious we never speak about, but we all think and feel.

Every generation has a musician, a diva, who speaks volumes beyond the song; Khan is arguably this generation’s Tori Amos or Kate Bush, carrying on a legacy of amazing craftsmanship that is uncompromising and unsettling to many listeners. Though the music itself is not aggressive, and quite accessible to radio play, Khan does not change her style on her sophomore effort: if you dare to scratch the surface, which you should, you will be whisked away into a world of soundscape that you will not want to leave.

Track Listings:
1. Glass
2. Sleep Alone
3. Moon and Moon
4. Daniel
5. Peace Of Mind
6. Siren Song
7. Pearl's Dream
8. Good Love
9. Two Planets
10. Travelling Woman
11. The Big Sleep - featuring Scott Walker

Keep up with Bat for Lashes at their homepage, MySpace, and YouTubeChannel: batforlashes.

Here is the video for "Daniel."