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July 6, 2009 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Bat for Lashes—Two Suns

The cover of Two Suns, the second album of acclaimed British musician Natasha Khan, a.k.a. Bat for Lashes, shows Khan wearing a woven heart-shaped bodice and a crown of stars, standing on a marsh amidst hundreds of candles, holding a golden globe in each hand. Without having heard the album, it’s clear that she’s an ethereal songstress; a modern Stevie Nicks or Kate Bush. Although this is true, Khan is not riding on the coattails of those who have gone before her. Both Two Suns and her acclaimed debut Fur and Gold resist comparisons to other artists, combining supernatural themes of wizards and huntresses, bats and bears, with her inherent pop sensibilities. Her songs are at once transfixing and emotive, and this latest offering in particular showcases the extent of Khan’s talent. Fur and Gold was breathtaking, but reserved; in Two Suns, she explores the darker, more dramatic aspects of her vision.

The album opens with ‘Glass’, in which Khan dreams of being made of glass over a primal drumbeat. The track’s percussive focus could have overpowered a singer of lesser ability, but Khan holds her own: her clear-cut, spectral voice leaps from a refined whisper to a full-bodied howl that even Bush’s three-octave shriek couldn’t match. It’s melodramatic to the point of being theatrical, but this is familiar ground for Bat for Lashes, whose songs have the epic, extravagant narratives and powerful imagery of The Decemberists’ latest. Indeed, ‘Daniel’—the album’s first single and its most beguiling moment—alludes to The Karate Kid, its drum machine beat and sustained synth chords immediately evocative of the ‘80s. It combines feelings of wistfulness and isolation to create an improbable, but nevertheless spellbinding pop song. ‘Pearl’s Dream’, Two Suns’ answer to Fur and Gold’s ‘Prescilla’, is another example of Bat for Lashes’ turning her hand to pop, while eccentric gems such as ‘Good Love’ and ‘Siren Song’ add to the album’s intrinsic mysticism.

There’s no doubt that Two Suns is a work of epic proportions. Its ambitious themes and extensive instrumentation ensure that its drama exceeds that of Kate Bush’s back catalogue: while Bush wails that it’s “so cold”, and for us to let her in at our window, Bat for Lashes faces “a thousand crystal towers, a hundred emerald cities” with a flame in her heart. However, the album’s core is one of melodic pop, which prevents it from alienating its audience, while Khan’s charismatic voice commands attention in a way that it didn’t on Fur and Gold. Two Suns is a mesmerising, complete and original work, and in my estimation, one of the best albums of the year so far.


About the Author ()

Elle started out at Salient reviewing music. In 2010, she wrote features and Animal of The Week, which an informal poll revealed to be 40% of Victoria students' favourite part of the magazine. Alongside Uther Dean, she was co-editor for 2011. In 2012, she is chief features writer.

Comments (4)

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  1. “acclaimed British musician[‘s] . . . acclaimed debut”

    I don’t know why, but the double use of “acclaimed” (adj.) frustrates me. The second use sticks a little bit. Especially when you take into account the considered eloquence of the rest of the piece.

    But I agree, it’s a very nice album, not the best of the year, but very nice.

  2. Elle Hunt says:

    Good spotting, Acclaimed Commentor. What can I say? It was a late night..

  3. owen says:

    What’s this? A reviewer expressing their own opinion? Lordy lordy, what is the world coming to?

  4. Mike the Courier says:

    Fuckin’ oath, Acclaimed Commentator. When I’m pilin’ on a huge stacka fuckin’ akka dakka, I don’t want some POOFTER CUNT sailing on the fuckin’ HMS Thesauraus and giving me what for. I’ll tell yah how good the fuckin’ new akka dakka album is: it’s fuckin’ cream thighs, sheeli. get that down ya.

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