"When you love so long/That the thrill is gone/And your kisses at night/Are replaced with tears... Then I ask you now/what's a girl to do?"
Bat for Lashes' exquisite debut has many brilliant songs on it, but the most memorable of them has to be "What's A Girl To Do?". It's a haunting breakup song with a dark, swirling melody -- and this single contains a pair of extra songs on the end, one live and one remixed version of the title track.
Hollow kettle drums, and a rippling harpsichord set the dark mood, before Natasha Khan says wistfully, "We walked arm in arm/But I didn't feel his touch/A desire I'd first tried to hide/That tingling inside was gone." She describes how her lover asks her if she still loves him, but that her heart "grows colder with each day."
Then the melody whips itself into a hypnotic swirl of dark, sparkling pop. Khan alternates between spoken, mournful monologues about love that has died ("Over the times we've shared/It's all blackened out/And my bat lightning heart/Wants to fly away"), and hauntingly powerful vocals ("When you love so long/That the thrill is gone/And your kisses at night/Are replaced with tears").
As the drums echo hollowly and the harpsichord fades out, she sings sadly, "When your dreams are on/a train to trainwreck town/then I ask you now/what's a girl to do?" Musically it's such a simple song, but powerful in its dark prettiness.
It's followed by a remix of the above song, which frankly isn't that good -- the simple melody is smothered under club beats, rattling tambourines, and a bassline so low you can hardly hear it. But there is a gloriously haunting synth line that runs through the melody, which is more in tune with the original.
And finally there is a live version of "The Wizard," recorded in NYC's Jo's Public Theatre. And all I can say is that the song holds up well -- the solemn, fantastical air of the song is kept intact, and Natasha Khan sounds magnificent as she sings of "trembling midnight lands," burning arrows and a wizardly leader.
The songs included on here (well, except maybe the remix) are a reminder of why I've adored Bat For Lashes ever since I first heard "Fur and Gold." Natasha Khan really infuses her music with a sense of wonder, poignancy, magic and beauty, to the point where even basic breakup songs about love that has slowly died are absolutely breathtaking.
Khan isn't too shabby with the instrumentation, too -- the title track is a minimalistic swirl of that stately harpsichord and some hollow kettle drums. They set the mood perfectly. And the last song is led by a haunting swirl of guitar, drums, keyboard and a shaky tambourine, with waves of sweeping synth gently falling over it all at times.
Moreover, Khan has a knack with equally simple, powerful lyrics -- she can express sorrow and regret in a few lines, but also spin up a fantasy world in "Wizard" ("Wrestle your bones over mine/Into our moonless march come the wizard"). And her strong, sweet voice -- reminiscent of Feist or Imogen Heap -- is absolutely stunning. Even in the live performance, she only falters vocally once or twice.
While the remix is just acceptable, "What's A Girl To Do?" is a truly haunting, sorrowful breakup song with brilliantly simple lyrics and music, and the live performance just reaffirms this. A pretty, poignant single.