Saturday, September 23, 2006

Bat For Lashes - Fur and Gold

I promised to get back with my thoughts on this album, once I had listened to it enough to have a reasonably stable opinion, and here they are: reviewing this album is almost impossible! Here goes anyway...

Start at the beginning, continue to the end, then stop.
I chose the title because of the books this album 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 album. 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 (a.k.a. Natasha Khan and her talented collaborators) have unleashed one of the best d├ębut albums 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 to get me hooked and that is quite unusual! I took comfort in the fact that there are far more destructive addictions... and that the music, vocals and the lyrics are all very special and move seemlessly from the densely woven, yet never muddy sounding, to utterly ethereal understatement and the percussion, be it martial drums or hand-claps, is to die for!
Together it pulls you into a world that, although you somehow can't quite actually grasp or escape it, you don't want to commit to: a dangerous yet enticing place that, it seems, also shares many features with the one in which we usually live.

The album is far more than mere escapism however and all the better for it - as the spoken vocals of 'What's A Girl To Do?' attest - 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 as 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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