Tuesday, April 7, 2009

two suns by bat for lashes

It took me awhile to get my "grown-up" words around Bat For Lashes sophomore album Two Suns (out today). Even now, I think incessant chanting of the phrase "dude" might be a more articulate response than anything set to follow. I'm a Southern Californian.

After the strong debut Fur and Gold that, while enticing, seemed to work better in pieces than as a concept album, former film student Natasha Khan has called on every cinematic trick in the book for her follow up, and along the way blows your semester of film theory 101 out of the water.

While "Daniel," the least arresting cut of the album, is acting as the album's current "trailer", it feels like a gross misrepresentation. I love Khan's voice in almost every context, but still am not completely sure how the 80s drum machine is representative of an otherwise organic album. Album opener "Glass," on the other hand, is enough to make any listener sit up and take notice, from its whispered Song of Solomon opening to the soaring chorus, dripping with untapped longing. This, folks, is what we in the biz call, "opening with a bang."

Every screenwriter knows that by the end of the first act, you need to introduce a memorable villain. Aided by duet partner "Pearl," her "destructive, femme fatale persona," Khan gives us one of the best musical character introductions ever in duel album highlights: "Siren Song," a paean to a simple life of unconditional unobtainable love, and "Pearl's Dream," a pulsating battle call capturing what happens when the dark side takes over.

Of course, when the villain is internalized, can you ever win? Even with weary third-act denouncement, "Traveling Woman" we're given little indication that the battle will ever be won, only that, weary, the heroine must trudge on to fight again, making the same mistakes over and over.

The album is sent to a uncertain rest with closer ‘The Big Sleep," featuring Scott Walker: an uneasy duet that hauntingly pushes Khan to the edge of her vocal range. It's chilling two minutes and forty-two seconds composed of a single piano mixed so raw, to close your eyes is to bring yourself into the lament's inner circle. Of course, your "Pearl" isn't far behind.

Here's hoping for a sequel.

mp3: "Glass (live via RCRDL)" by Bat For Lashes
mp3: "I'm On Fire (live)" by Bat For Lashes


spencer harris said...

i loved "fur & gold" and am very excited about "two suns"!

do you know anything about the bat for lashes documentary?

LMS said...

No, I didn't know there's a documentary! She's such a mysterious character, I'd love to know more about her creative process. I do know she's featured in the next Under the Radar...and she's playing LA in June (nudge nudge...)

spencer harris said...

when's the show?
Julie and i are gone (off to spain!) for the later half of the month...