Artist: "Bat For Lashes"
Album: "Two Suns"
Genre: Indie Music
Review: My sister introduced me to Bat For Lashes' first album, Fur and Gold by giving it to me for Christmas last year, and as much as I was blown away by that debut, it doesn't even compare to her sophomore release, Two Suns, which has considerable more depth than her first album. Bat For Lashes (aka Natasha Khan) has an ethereal sound punctuated by earthy, tribal drumbeats, and a lot of people have compared her sound to the likes of Björk, PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, Annie Lennox and most commonly, Kate Bush.
Bear with me, as I don't think I can possibly talk about this album without getting all "faggy" about it, because--SPOILERS: I really love this album.
Two Suns is a concept album all about dualities, expressed mostly through the dual personalities of Natasha Khan, and her alter-ego Pearl, who seems to be a personification of Natasha's id and all of its dark impulses. This is one of those albums that you will discover hidden depths in the more you listen to it, and the lyrics bear paying close attention to, as they often have multiple levels of meaning and interpretation. I heard that she wrote this album in response to the ending of a long relationship--I don't know if that's true but many of the lyrics can certainly be interpreted that way.
This is night music, suited for darkness--I can't explain why, but when you hear it, you'll be hard pressed to disagree. It conjures up images of tribal dancing in the desert at night, around a big fire, or driving alone down a highway in the middle of nowhere. This album is sad, lonely, nostalgic, a little mournful but sweet to the ears. Every song is fantastically textured and very effective at conjuring a mood--this is an album I can sit in the dark and simply listen to without any other distractions, simply absorbing all the sound and feeling.
"Glass" opens the album promisingly with Natasha's vaporous echoing voice flying solo before the tribal drumbeats come in, and she really shows off her impressive vocal range as she emotionally belts out the line "to be made of glass". In "Sleep Alone" Natasha decries her loneliness and expresses the desire to be with someone, and her high-pitched voice on the chorus sounds fantastic. "Moon and Moon" is a beautiful and melancholy piano piece, particularly reminiscent of Tori Amos, with the backing vocals adding some interesting textures to the music.
Next comes "Daniel", the first single (the album version of the song is better) and my personal favorite, which I absolutely cannot stop listening to. It's dreamy, ethereal, beautiful, and is quickly becoming a strong contender for my favorite song ever. I read that Natasha's first crush was Daniel Larusso from The Karate Kid, which is strongly supported by the single's cover and the music video. The lyrics (again, supported by the video) have her retreating from having been burned by love and seeking the solace of an innocent childhood crush like she had on Daniel-san when she was a young girl--something that only exists in dreams and doesn't have any real power to hurt.
"Peace of Mind" has Natasha yearning for just what the title says with a gospel chorus coming in to back her up toward the end of the song. "Siren Song" is probably the most emotionally powerful song (another piano piece, and it packs a mighty punch performed live), where Natasha tells a new lover all of the wonderful things she will do for him, but then the id-driven Pearl reminds her that eventually she will give in to her wicked impulses and break his heart, which is when Natasha realizes that she's only going to drive this guy away like all of the others.
"Pearl's Dream" is a very catchy, percussion-driven song and is probably the most "danceable" on the album. "Good Love" sounds like a church hymn, while "Two Planets" has an almost warlike drumbeat and rhythmic hand clapping segments. "Traveling Woman" is another piano-driven song with insightful lyrics about not losing yourself by over-compromising in a relationship. "The Big Sleep" closes the album with a mournful song about endings--the ending of relationships, and more specifically the ending of the Pearl aspect of Natasha's personality.
Another thing worth mentioning about this album is the artwork on the front and back cover. On the front we see a striking, colorful image of the earthy, spiritual Natasha, surrounded by candles and looking calm and confident in the solitude of nature. The back cover shows the vain and materialistic Pearl in a cluttered room reminiscent of a set from Blade Runner, with a longing, sad look on her face. Both women (suns) hold two tiny metal globes in their hands, small planets orbiting around them. Natasha has a halo of thorns and stars while Pearl's halo is a neon tube of white light. These are both very eye-catching images that you can easily get lost in for a while, just like the album itself.
There's so much wonderful stuff here to discover if you give this album a chance and get swept up in its emotions and themes. If there has been a better album to come out so far this year, I have not heard it.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
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