on 4 April 2009
This album is now available on Last FM at the moment and I urge you to go there and listen to it. To my mind, its a clear evolution from Fur and Gold - the primitive, tribal influences are still there, but the sound is more dancey, more electronic - it feels very early 1980s synth. However, whilst this early Eurythmics / Depeche Mode synth sounds seems to be all the rage, the lyrics are outstanding as ever from Natasha Khan, and, above all, the album seems to be permeated by a very zen, calm, perhaps even isolated, feeling. I understand from hearing and reading interviews about Two Suns that a lot of it was produced as Bat for Lashes travelled around on tour, and whereas Fur and Gold seemed to conjure up mental images of knights and maidens and Camelot, this album has a strong feeling about the mid West USA about it - National Parks, Canyons, wild nature.
In short - its as beautiful and haunting as you would expect from this wonderful artist. I urge you to catch her on tour - I was fortunate to see her at the secret show at the Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea recently and it was a tour de force. 10/10!
It's like climbing a long velvet rope sewn with golden charms and jewels. That description sums up the experience of listening to Bat For Lashes (aka Natasha Khan), even in her lesser songs. And fortunately "Two Suns" doesn't really have any lesser songs -- just a steady stream of painfully exquisite, crystalline pop that focus on the feeling of love that's gone.
"In the street's broadways I seek... him whom my soul loveth," she sings softly in the introductory song, before switching to a mix of tribal drums and wafting keyboard. .
After that, she spreads out into a string of love songs -- in fact, this entire album is pretty heavy on those. Most are bittersweet descriptions of an affair falling apart ("I drove past true love once, in a dream/Like a house that caught fire, it burned and flamed"), but there are some beautifully idealistic moments as well.
Along the way, Khan dabbles in some stompy synthy dance, a hymnlike freak-folk ballad backed by a choir, and the warmly off-kilter "Traveling Woman," and a finale that evokes old wooden stages, toy pianos and an old theatre being shut down ("No more spotlights/coming down from heaven... and already my voice is fading/goodbye, my dears/and into the big city...").
Fortunately she doesn't abandon her signature sound, which is that of an old fantasy story mutating into a beautiful, slightly wicked dream -- swirling pop, haunting piano ballads, the soaring and unnerving echoes of "Siren" and its synth-studded companion "Pearl's Song," ethereal melodies swathed in shimmering keyboard, and the exotic sweet danciness of "Two Planets." But the absolute peak of the whole thing has to be "Daniel," an catchily effervescent ode to a man with a "flame in his heart."
One of the biggest questions that comes to mind when listening to "Two Suns" is -- why is the music industry flooded with no-talent pop hacks, when such exquisitely vibrant music is right there for the listening? It's an album with stunning vocals and instrumentation, and lyrics that evoke images of forests on fire, magicians, crystal cities, and an alter ego Khan calls Pearl (who is either a femme fatale or a fantasy traveler).
Khan's music is, if possible, even more beautiful than before, mainly because she's managed to polish the instrumentals even further. In most songs she weaves together a shimmering wall of hauntingly silky keyboard with drums, violins, sharp beats and painfully pretty piano, but sometimes she also pares it down to the bare essentials ("Peace of Mind").
But Khan's voice is one of the loveliest things in this album -- she can sing powerfully or wistfully, and she even shows that she can manage a song almost a capella ("Peace of Mind" again). Her songwriting is even better: she can conjure powerful emotions with vivid swathes of words ("I drove past true love once, in a dream/Like a house that caught fire, it burned and flamed"). It's almost sensual.
"Two Suns" is a lush, lovely album that shows how much Natasha Khan's music has grown in the last year, and reminds you of the dark, beautiful places just out of reach.
on 11 January 2010
I came across Bat For Lashes when I went to see the Radiohead gig at London on the summer of 2008, and boy was I in for a surprise. After the gig, I started listening to the, by-then only album Fur and Gold. From tip to toe it was absolutely beautiful. Her lyrics are very deep and her voice is something of a kind. I imediately fell in love and now that I can afford it I bought both of her albums.
By the way, when I first listened to Two Suns I was kind of disappointed, but then I took my time and listened it a couple more times. It's great. And I believe Travelling Woman can be my favourite song of them all, although it's really hard to pick one. It's one (two!!) of those albums where you like each and every song. And that doesn't happen very often. For me, that I can remember right now, it only happens with... Radiohead!!
Plus, the DVD on the special edition is really a plus. Natasha is a very sweet girl, and you really understand more of her songs if you listen to her explanations. By the end of the DVD you really see the big picture. It was very nice, because sometimes we listen to an album and we don't go beyond the 11 or 12 songs, and there's so much more behind that. The DVD really is a glimpse into the creative mind of the artist.
Absolutely 5 star!
Oh, and once again, amazon service proved flawless!
Natasha Khan made sure she shot out the traps and hit the ground running. With debut album Fur And Gold, Bat For Lashes surpassed everyone's expectations by very nearly securing the Mercury Music Award first time around. With the unique pressure that faces any artist that achieves an unforeseen amount of early success, follow up album Two Suns was a genuine litmus test for Khan. Well, the news is good. The new record sees Khan chart unknown territory and cements her place as one of this country's finest innovators. Simply mentioning Khan's legitimate reference points - Björk, Kate Bush and PJ Harvey - is probably enough to convince most that she is a true musical heavyweight and simply cannot be ignored.
As its title suggests, the album sees Khan building tracks around a futuristic vision. Khan's synth-led landscapes are a cold accompaniment to what can feel like a bleak and desolate world. Echo-strewn vocals punctuate the album's detached sound, endowing Two Suns with an abstract and challenging character. It's almost as though Kate Bush were cryogenically preserved and awakened in the next century, with a microphone immediately thrust in front of her.
Khan's appreciation for the mythical and the fantastical is clear from the outset. Glass' chilling introduction - where Khan wakes and psyches herself for battle - is the calm before the storm. Soon the track broadens into an angry depiction of the future, featuring concussive drum pounding and disturbing high-pitched shrieks. The record's unsettling start instantly sets the mood. It appears that Khan's electronic vision of the future is not a particularly positive one.
The album's inventive use of electronica is as impressive as it is unpredictable. Two Suns includes everything, from radio-friendly breakbeat to the frightening anarchism of Aphex Twin. While the album sometimes bears the unpolished characteristics of a shoegazer's bedroom recording, it is clear that Khan is not afraid to flex her muscles from time to time. Khan takes satisfaction in confounding the listener with the addition of improbable percussive layers, and this album's ability to catch you off guard is one of its many positives.
Khan's unsettling industrial rhythms certainly seem as "big venue" as those of Underworld and Orbital. Yes, you can picture Bat For Lashes and a throbbing main stage at Glastonbury lit by a profusion of blinking, neon florescence, but this isn't electronic music that you can always dance to. Predominantly, this is cerebral music for the head and for the soul. It is replete with complexity and measured by its depth and not by its BPM. However, Khan never allows her fetish for electronica to downgrade old fashioned, organic instrumentation. Instead, the album offers the listener an amalgam of both worlds. Drum machines here, pianos, organs and tambourines there.
Moon And Moon illustrates Khan's ability to strip back her own sound, liberating herself from the album's distant futurism. With her strikingly raw vocals - now reminiscent of Sarah McLachlan - laid bare against a simple piano melody, Khan ponders her loneliness: "when this wild world / is a big bad hand / pushing on my back / do you understand? / when I get hurt / been in the jungle / where's my bear to lick me clean / feed my soul milk and honey?" Khan's poetry is both obscure and personal, leading you down dead ends and places you're not supposed to be. Both lyrically and musically, the influence of Kate Bush - and others such as Nico and Imogen Heap - is for all to hear.
Although the album's subject matter is occasionally hard to unravel, Two Suns' overriding emotion is one of desire. At times fantastical and beautiful, Khan's yearning is often overcome by paranoia and apprehension. This has the regular effect of mutating her peaceful longing into a cold desperation. The nervousness and intensity of the electronic context turns Khan's wistful poetry into something much more acute and it doesn't take long to realise that Khan's desire is often brought about by a chronic fear of loneliness and of a life left incomplete.
Khan's desire manifests itself in any number of ways throughout the album's duration. Peace Of Mind's slow country gospel march is a bizarre backdrop to Khan's wistful confusion: "build a ladder to the sky / sit up there and say you're mine / does looking down make me a queen / or the star that I see?" Siren Song reveals the extent of Khan's desire: "can I stay with you a while / can I stop off in your bed tonight / I can make you smile / in the morning I'll make you breakfast / in the evening I'll warm the bed." Soon this maternal affection is overwhelmed by feelings of "wickedness and sin." The album's fluctuating moods reflect the complexity of Khan's desire and her life's uneven journey. Yet, the album's ever-changing tapestry is not short of instant gratification. Daniel, a sublime single in itself, merges the sultry, top 10 pop of Fleetwood Mac with Kate Bush's most fanciful flights.
Some will spend the album's duration questioning or belittling Khan's otherworldly imaginings - but then they would be missing the point. If your dreams (and even your wildest thoughts) are a place of logic, then please beg to differ. Khan's mission is to evoke the beauty of the unreal, places that even science isn't sure about. She should be applauded for having the guts to tap into the unknown.
Two Suns is a misty graveyard of dreams and fantasies, both benevolent and sincere. Yet conversely, it can feel as warped as the cause of that bad night's sleep that still terrifies you now. In other words, this is music not easily forgotten. Khan skilfully traverses reality and delusion, dreams and nightmares and love and obsession. At any given moment, Two Suns is able to rekindle your faith in music's ability to surprise. One of the year's best, without a shadow of doubt.
on 17 April 2009
Let us get Kate Bush out of the way. Yes, Natasha Khan is a bit of an oddball and is prone to the occasional squeak or Tori Amos-like dalliance. However, neither of these girls served up an epic slice of druid pop-rock on a bed of Cure-d bass lines (`Glass'). 30 seconds in and she's off, whispering about `knights in shining armour' across dreamscapes of timeless but modern atmospherics. Her voice drifts across the bridge between the Cocteau Twins and sanity like an incoming mist.
However, it's not all good news. `Moon And Moon' is an unchallenging, if pretty, ballad. `Peace Of Mind' is harmonised banality that falls short of PJ Harvey. Elsewhere there is an over reliance on synthesised beats to induce and implore radio play. That said, it has worked a treat. `Daniel' is deceptively simple and wildly attainable because of it, despite whiffing of Fleetwood Mac. Her package is wrapped in a thin, but credible, alternative veil.
It's not all pop though. The back end of the album contorts into an introspective shuffle, far away from the heady, click-clack beats of earlier tracks. `The Big Sleep' even welcomes Scott Walker as operatic accompaniment for a poignant lament more in line with Antony Hegarty's `Daylight & The Sun' than with shimmering, pop-princess ambition.
Khan has grown in ambition with Two Suns. It is more adventurous and more polished. `Fur And Gold' was intriguing but not all it could be, Two Suns is a giant leap towards fulfilling her potential and an impressive achievement. However, like Björk, she should continue to evolve and shake off any shackles of expectation. We, the listener, should demand those next steps with urgency.
on 14 April 2009
Firstly, buy this album. This really is something incredible, you only have to listen to the utterly accomplished and beautiful lyrics once before your heart skips a beat and you realise you're witnessing something special.
Every song has been lavished with so much love by Natasha Khan, this record really stands out. Every word she sings has been painfully chosen for all the intimacies of its meaning and the album is something incredible for it.
The love songs are so sincere and the imagery magnificent. The final song, Wilderness, (which I presume must be the 'secret' track you get with the code [got my album off iTunes]) is so completely heart wrenchingly beautiful and upsetting I found myself crying my eyes out in bed listening to it.
Please do yourself a favour and buy this album. She is an artist, a writer and an amazing musician, and after hearing this record I have nothing but total respect for her.
I can't think of enough superlatives to describe this record.
I have the first Bat For Lashes album and am not a huge fan of it, so didn't really expect myself to buy her second offering, but after hearing 'Daniel' on the Rob da Bank show it sounded like she was moving in a slightly more mature and experimental direction and so I gave Two Suns a shot.
The album is moving much more into the Bjork-y shaped pigeon hole people seem to be pushing her towards, more musically than vocally. There's a lot of dominant drumming, very tribal in places and it gives the album a real drive. This is particularly noticeable on 'Two Planets' and 'Glass', in which the drum rhythms are reminiscent of early LFO and Bjork's 'Post'.
Vocally it's reminiscent of Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom, as well as Bjork, as those who heard the first record will know.
The stand out tracks are 'Daniel' and 'Pearl's Dream', dreamy pieces that don't lack impetus but really embody the innovative, more developed sound that Bat For Lashes seems to have found.
There are also comparisons to be drawn with other seminal female artists, such as PJ Harvey and CocoRosie, noticeably on the piano-led 'Travelling Woman'. And I have no doubt that in a few years this will be looked back on as a seminal record in itself.
on 5 October 2009
Well, the record's been out for a few months now so I don't know if I need to say anything about the music. Yes it's more produced and a tad more commercial than "Fur & Gold". I don't think that is a cynical ploy on the part of Ms. Khan though. Probably just a reflection on what she was getting in to at the time. The album is a 5 star effort to begin with (in my opinion) and the bonus tracks just make it all the more wonderful.Being a huge fan of Tom Waits, I really enjoy her take on "Lonely" from "Closing Time". Her version of "A Forest" is one of the many high points of the very wonderful Cure tribute CD "Perfect As Cats" The live tracks sound great and are wonderfully recorded.I really wish the Analog Suicide mix of Daniel(by the uber-talented Tara Busch who's fantastic version of "Let's Go To Bed" makes the afforementioned Cure tribute one of last year's "must-have" releases)had been included though.
That brings me to my other complaint.Since I suspect many of us are buying this a second time to get the extra tracks and the DVD, I don't see why the "Daniel" & "Pearl's Dream" music videos couldn't have been included as extras.But since the listing told exactly what was on the DVD,I couldn't really bring myself to deduct a star for that.
In the fifties, she would iron, and clean, she would vaccum the house and darn socks, work idly round the house, gaze into the clouds and see the shape of her man. Him, stoic, hard, but soft, would fight the wars of the world outside, would drive the Buick to the office, smoke at his desk and calculate the profit gearing of the tea imports, sit and drink with the boys, play the role of the man, wishing that he was home, deep in his cocoon with her, the Juliet to his Romeo, as the world slowly killed them with dinner sets and social conventions.
This is what "Two Suns" sounds like. Two objects in orbit of each other, two massive balls of fire that can give or take life, burn or warm : two hearts, two objects of huge potential. In the rear view mirror of our lives, the two suns in the sunset - the setting white dwarf, the other the mushroom cloud of our great advances.
"Two Suns". Like the debut, it sounds like to me, the inarticulate speech of the heart, the rolling waves, the feeling beyond language, where fragments of lyric become a glimpse into another world, where percussion and punctuation thunder loving heartbeats, where souls move beyond the mundane to so much more than we ever thought.
This record elevates, transports, in the blink of an eye, a flash of the music, the whole world goes away, and you are there, dancing to a silent drum, gazing at the clouds, thinking of your loved one, the reason why we do all this, and hearing the voice of purpose in your head : This is why we do all this stuff, why we endure the indignities of work slavery and tax. Where souls meet, where lips touch, where love conquers all things. This record is not just music : the representation, the capturing in musical form of a two hearted dream, where we, us together can conquer all.
This is the sound of being madly, passionately in love, that second where the souls entwine, and everything in the world is beautiful, and nothing is impossible.
on 8 April 2009
If anyone has seen Bat For Lashes live (which i did last night) they will have come to realise the beauty and talent this lady carries. Fur and Gold, her debut, was an excellent spring board to catapult Natasha (her real name) into the spot light, earning her a Brit and Mercury nomination. I am a huge fan of Fur and Gold so naturally i was excited on listening to this second album.
Instantaneously you notice the Bjork, Fleetwood Mac, general 80s influence. The album kicks of with Glass, a heavily drum and synth (main album theme) orbited song, which is an excellent opener. The album then moves from strength to strength, Sleep Alone, of course Daniel, Pearls Dream all rapturous songs. The piano based songs (i.e. the slower ones) are not quite as gripping as those featured on her pervious album and for me can get a tad boring.
Just when you thought the album was drifting off into an electro slumber Two Planets explodes through you speakers. For me, this is one of her best songs to date.
Overall, this album is an excellent continuation of the work on Fur and Gold, the album is more coherent, definite, conceptual, electronic and definitely more mature. Also I think her fetish for powerful drum beats has increased. I have no doubt this will secure Natasha as one of the UKs biggest and best talents. Buy this album is you loved the previous one or if you are a fan of Kate Bush, Ladyhawke, Annie Lennox, Fleetwood Mac and all that jazz - I definitely implore you to check her out live!