BAT FOR LASHES
I wish I didn't know that Natasha Khan is from England. Maybe then I could listen to her latest Bat for Lashes record with my eyes closed and not think about horse-drawn carriages, a muddy countryside, governesses, and all the other quietly desperate trappings of a bad British costume drama. But I'll never be blissfully unaware of her homeland, and what I really want to convey here is that with The Haunted Man, Khan has not only made a great gothic record, she is at the peak of songwriting prowess. Up close, raw, and naked, The Haunted Man is a confident masterpiece. Gone is the spook-goof production and mystic adornment of her earlier albums that ALMOST dipped into Urban Outfitters/festival-feather-headdress territory. (I'd also like to believe she heard all those faux-goth and gaudy witch house bands that cropped up around her 2009 album, Two Suns, and resolved to make a better record.)
Sure, all you have to do is read the album title to know that The Haunted Man is filled with ghosts. But these aren't the kind of ghosts that tremble around a stately home or tie your shoelaces together; Khan sings about the spirits of those lost—the absent ones living entirely in your head. There's the former lover in "All Your Gold" who felt like a spiritual exaltation (and turns Khan's current beau into a wraith) or the fragrant sexual séance of "Oh Yeah." The only slight I can give this album is that it means Khan's previously unwarranted Kate Bush comparisons are not going to be put to bed anytime soon. (More attention to Khan's vocals means you can hear her oddly distinctive and occasionally chirpy voice, along with percussion that often sounds straight out of Hounds of Love.) But like some of Bush's best work, The Haunted Man is broody, nurturing, stark, and divine. The Haunted Man is about being a woman. Showbox at the Market, 9 pm, $21.50 adv/$23 DOS, all ages.