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64
4.5 out of 5 stars
Fur And Gold
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 25 July 2007
Well, I dont know many albums that start with a harpsichord melody that sounds so simple that it may as well have come out of one of my childhood keyboards, but still retains a certain baroqueness about it. But here we are! Bat For Lashes is essentially Natasha Khan's band, a gifted singer/songwriter who mixes a Bjork-like individuality with unusual instrumentation and graceful songwriting. The album relies mostly on piano/keyboard/violin melodies and Khan's direct yet soft vocals.

Listening to it, there doesnt seem to be a definitive song for this band, as each of the 11 tracks on offer here sound unique. That doesnt mean they're all winners; all of the songs can be praised for individuality but some for being unmemorable. This, in turn, makes haunting piano-led ballad 'Sad Eyes' stand out, aswell as opener 'Horse And I' with its impressive vocal melodies. Album highlight would be 'The Bat's Mouth', which slowly builds to a beautiful melodic pinnacle of optimism and ends with a lovely quiet ending, touching violin lines and all.

Unusual, varied, slightly moody but not depressing, individualistic and slightly poppy would be the best way to describe it. Whilst 'Fur And Gold' isnt a classic its got plenty of memorable moments on it, and it bodes well for Khan's career if she's making songs this good on her debut.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on 7 August 2007
Awful name for a band but then people kept mentioning Bjork and Kate Bush in the same sentence as Natasha Khan's band of female musical mavericks, so I decided Bat For Lashes could be ignored no more. Why did I wait!
What made the early Kate Bush and Bjork records so special was their naivety and total lack of self-consciousness coupled with a wonderful, if off-kilter, pop sensibility. And it's that which Bat For Lashes have in spades.
While our two maturing heroines have become increasingly avant guard or insular, Khan remains fresh-faced, up-beat and in love with the melodic possibilities of a simple pop hook. And, hand on heart, there is not a song on the album that has me reaching for the track-skipping switch.
This is a fine record, perhaps the best I have heard in the past 12 months, that deserves a wide audience. We need pop mavericks (even if they do sing about wizards, bats etc) and Natasha Khan more than carries the torch. Great stuff.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Imagine walking through a forest flooded by golden light, full of mystery and magic, and the sorrow of things that are fading away.

That's sort of the atmosphere of "Fur and Gold," the debut album by Bat For Lashes. The Brighton band -- really a one-woman band for Natasha Khan -- churns out a stream of shimmering, dark, fantastical chamberpop that sounds like the halfway point between Feist and Joanna Newsom.

It opens with the dreamlike "Horse and I," with its throbs of harpsichord and marching military drums (a Jeanne D'Arc influence?). "Got woken in the night/by a mystic golden light/My head soaked in river water," Khan murmurs, sounding both desperate and sleepy. "The smell of redwood giants/A banquet for the shadows/Horse and I, we're dancers in the dark/Came upon the headdress/It was gilded, dark and golden..."

It rises into a desperate plea, as "The children sang/I was so afraid I took it to my head and prayed/They sang to me, "This is yours to wear/You're the chosen one, there's no turning back." The song swells and falls, with Khan murmurs painfully, "There is no turning back/there is no turn..."

Khan does try out some more conventional songs, like the darkly minimalistic "What's A Girl To Do," a haunting, dramatic lament about a fizzled-out affair. But even then, she includes some unique phrases ("And my bat lightning heart/Wants to fly away"). And then there's "Sad Eyes," a painfully loving post-breakup song ("Keep my love as light as a feather").

Then she regains some of that more magical sound, with songs about powerful wizards, black snow, beautiful wild girls who die or grow up, centaurs, haunted forests. It finishes with the exquisite "I Saw A Light," a piano ballad that briefly swells up into a musical storm.... right before Khan says softly, "And I said goodbye."

The music industry doesn't turn out much music like this -- pop music that relies on sensual instrumentation and brilliant songwriting, rather than jiggle or computerized vocals. Fantastical forests and seas, tropical islands, lovelorn urbanites, and magical horses all somehow weave into this -- it's like a long, beautiful dream.

It also has pretty unique instrumentation -- much of it is harpsichord and strings, but there's also plenty of military-style drums, cymbals, some mellow electric guitar, trumpet in places, and a shimmer of autoharp. Khan weaves the sounds together expertly into a dark, lush, velvety tapestry that sounds like the work of a longtime professional.

And somehow it doesn't seem surprising that her vocals fit in perfectly -- she can do husky, soaring, a childlike singsong, or the half-spoken chant of "What's A Girl To Do?", where she seems to be almost conversing with the listener. Often she's backed by a ghostly, sensual chorale, which sounds like her own voice.

"Fur and Gold" is all darkness, gold, feathers and twilight -- a stunning, musically lush, lyrically exquisite pop album. Despite the odd name, Bat for Lashes has genius.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 18 July 2007
We saw this girl and her mostly female band at Glastonbury, and were instantly mesmerised by her melodic voice and the band's members subtle use of the weird sounding instruments and great backing vocals.In addition,they were able to change around instruments between themselves, creating some brilliant music that was in total control all times, a wonderful sound that was different but somehow familiar.

We ordered the CD from Amazon, who were out stock, but it arrived two weeks before they said it would, have been playing it ever since,just magical.

Bob and Barb Townsend
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 6 November 2006
Halfway through Fur And Gold's opener, Horse & I, you can't help but consider that the time Natasha Khan (the astonishing voice behind Bat For Lashes) spent as a nursery school teacher has given her the inspiration and ability to nurture childhood fantasies as a source of creativity. Dark and initially foreboding, Horse & I - like the rest of this stunning debut album - is the perfect construction of haunting storytelling and deceptively sweet melodies.

While Bat For Lashes is the spooky brainchild of Natasha Khan, her bandmates prove just as adept at creating portentous panoramas. Despite Khan's enchanted voice and theatrical presence, it is the vivid strings on Bat's Mouth create perhaps the album's outstanding poetic dreamscape, and the harpsichord highs of Sad Eyes are as potent an apothecary as any of Khan's vocals.

Debut single, The Wizard, is rife with distant thunderclaps and swirling foggy electonics, while there are elements of Godspeed You Black Emperor! chaos on Seal Jubilee and some bubblegum pop handclaps on Prescilla.

While the numerous eccentricies force comparison with Bjork, Kate Bush and Portishead, Fur And Gold is an altogether unique album. Moreover, shadowy, cobweb-draped and not a little bit spooky, it's an album that is not entirely of this world.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 14 July 2007
Well, I dont know many albums that start with a harpsichord melody that sounds so simple that it may as well have come out of one of my childhood keyboards, but still retains a certain baroqueness about it. But here we are! Bat For Lashes is essentially Nataschka Khan's band, a gifted singer/songwriter who mixes a Bjork-like individuality with unusual instrumentation and graceful songwriting. The album relies mostly on piano/keyboard/violin melodies and Khan's direct yet soft vocals.

Listening to it, there doesnt seem to be a definitive song for this band, as each of the 11 tracks on offer here sound unique. That doesnt mean they're all winners; all of the songs can be praised for individuality but some for being unmemorable. This, in turn, makes haunting piano-led ballad 'Sad Eyes' stand out, aswell as opener 'Horse And I' with its impressive vocal melodies. Album highlight would be 'The Bat's Mouth', which slowly builds to a beautiful melodic pinnacle of optimism and ends with a lovely quiet ending, touching violin lines and all.

Unusual, varied, slightly moody but not depressing, individualistic and slightly poppy would be the best way to describe it. Whilst 'Fur And Gold' isnt a classic its got plenty of memorable moments on it, and it bodes well for Khan's career if she's making songs this good on her debut.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 1 February 2007
The hype gave everyone the bullet point references; a bit of Bjork, a sprinkling of Kate Bush...and whilst those are comparisons that are certainly not off the mark, the end product is something that is so much better than labelling the "new" anything.

It was the Phil Spector stylings of "What's A Girl To Do" that first turned me onto Natasha Khan (aka Bat For Lashes). It's 60's tinged pop melody combined with its spoken word vocal to create something that you rarely get from a record these days, an atmosphere. And this is something that carries on throughout the album. If the Arctic Monkeys give us a witty real-life insight into modern-day Yorkshire life, Bat For Lashes transport us to another world entirely. A mystical, ethereal one that draws you in repeatedly until you are lost in the gothic, almost fairytale world that is created.

Of course it may be sounding all a little too far "out there" for it's own good, but fear not. Khan may take us on this otherworldly journey, but she has the good grace to accompany it with some sublime sing-a-long choruses and catchy melodies. Particular highlights include Trophy (again with Khan's narrative vocals), Horse & I and I Saw A Light. But really, this is not an album to skip tracks on, this is an album to immerse yourself in from start to finish. It really is that good.

In my humble opinion, this has to be a front runner for the 2007 Mercury Music Prize
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 24 July 2007
Bat for Lashes (aka Natasha Khan) and her fellow musicians have produced something beautifully, mesmerically unique with 'Fur and Gold' - yet the influences are there for all to hear...from the Bjork like voices on 'Trophy' and 'What's a girl to do' to the PJ Harvey utterances on 'Sad Eyes' which is moving to the point of tears. Khan has an incredible, touching, emotive voice with magical range but it was the musical layers that set this apart and made me sit up and listen...I'd not been this transfixed since Radiohead's 'OK Computer' and I often felt Khan's arrangements were up there with some of the best from that album. Easily the best thing I've heard this year...a wonderful talent.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 20 September 2007
If your musical predilection includes Tori Amos, Kate Bush and Bjork, then you really ought to give this remarkable album a listen. Be warned though that you need to dedicate time to the whole album as it knits together so well. Single tracks listened to out of the album context may appear weak. The sum of the parts is absolutely superb otherwise. If you like your music unconventional and slightly odd-ball, more chill and toughtful than obvious and overtly 'catchy' then this is for you. Tightly knit and nicely produced instrumentation sits in a floating sound space that allows vocals to draw you in like a moth to a flame. I guess you will either like it or hate it, there is no middle ground as this album demands that you listen to it rather than just hear it. Marvellous.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Reviewing this album is near impossible!

I chose the title because of the books it reminds me of - 'Alice In Wonderland' & 'Through The Looking Glass'. That is near as I can get to the often surreal, yet still utterly engaging, nature of the subject matter. From start to end it is a conundrum: the less you understand it the more you want to, and for every insight or pearl of wisdom there is a contradiction.
There are, however, a few things I can say with certainty: Bat For Lashes (aka Natasha Khan and her talented collaborators) have unleashed the début album of 2006. It seemingly came from nowhere (I first read about it in 'The Fly'), its genre is almost unspecifiable and it is addictive - very dangerously so as it only took one listen! I took comfort in the fact that there are far more dangerous addictions... and that the music, vocals and the lyrics are all very special and move seemlessly from the very densely woven, yet never muddy sounding, to the utterly ethereal. Together they pull you into a world that you somehow can't quite grasp but desperately want to: a world that, it seems, also shares many features with the one in which we live.

The album is far more than mere escapism however and all the better for it - as 'What's A Girl To Do?' attests - because there are things about this and many other tracks that are so familiar to us in the real and imperfect worlds...

"Trying to hold it together
Keep my love as light as a feather"

...from 'Sad Eyes' being a good example.

This is a subtle album but, even if you happen to hate it, could never be regarded a a bland one and that is part of why it so good. 2006 has produced many fine albums/artists and this, although rather different, is right up there with the very best of them!
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