(EDITOR’S NOTE: Stay tuned, next week we will be posting an exclusive interview with Natasha Khan / Bat for Lashes, conducted by our own Alex Nagorski.)
Natasha Kahn who is better known by her stage name Bat for Lashes is about to release a new album in October. It’s been three years since her critically acclaimed album Two Suns was released. Her song “Daniel” from said album appeared on almost every playlist I compiled in 2009. According to Natasha, not only was the song about an ex-boyfriend but it was also about Daniel LaRusso, the karate kid from you guessed it The Karate Kid.
Last month Bat for Lashes released the single for her forthcoming album The Haunted Man titled “Laura.” Along with a studio version of the song, she released a music video and the album cover for her new record. In Bat for Lashes fashion, she was able to create a cinematic and sonic narrative for her new album with all three of these components. “Laura” is on the quieter side of things. As much of a ballad, as a Bat for Lashes song could sound, Natasha’s vocals are front and center in their ghostly sad way. Listening to this song it only made sense to speculate and wonder who Laura is, in the same way we speculated who Daniel was. The song seems to be an ode to a friend who is struggling with putting to rest a past filled with partying in a city’s nightlife scene. But it also conjures up images of that famous (fictional) Laura Palmer from David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Natasha has not offered any insight into who Laura is but it doesn’t prevent this song from feeling like a “train that crashed my heart” with every listen.
PopBytes was invited to hear the new record The Haunted Man last Thursday night in New York City. Without hesitation, we showed up to Electric Lady Studios in Greenwich Village. Walking into the recording studio was like walking through forty years of musical history. This was Jimi Hendrix’s studio! There was vinyl, paintings and murals all over the walls. I couldn’t tell if it was 1970 or 2012 until I saw the iMac at the front desk. You could feel the history, the ghosts and spirits of musicians that have recorded here. John Lennon, Blondie, David Bowie, Radiohead, Courtney Love.
We’re all invited into a carpeted studio with couches, lamps and other decor. It feels both welcoming and intimidating. Drinks are being served and there is a drum set, guitar and microphone set up on one side of the room. Behind the instruments are three beautiful photographs of Natasha Kahn. Also, the NSFW album cover is displayed, which is a photograph (taken by Ryan McGinley) of a nude Natasha carrying a naked man over her shoulder. They are playing Bat for Lashes’ previous albums while everyone is mingling about.
Bat for Lashes’ manager introduces himself and asks the crowd of people to keep the chatter down as the new album plays. He motions to the people behind the glass in the studio to push play and The Haunted Man begins. It’s loud. But the first track off the album deserves the volume. It’s upbeat. It’s reminiscent of “Daniel.” It only takes thirty seconds for the chatter to return to its original volume and it’s difficult to hear the record. It’s hard to tell when a song ends and a new song begins. But the album sounds amazing. The first single “Laura” is very misleading. This isn’t an album full of slow, down tempo, ghostly, aching ballads. It seems Bat for Lashes has retreated back to her more vivacious, upbeat first album Fur and Gold (2006) but keeping the glossy production value of songs like “Daniel.”
Natasha was mingling with the crowd while her record was being played for a second time. I wondered how she felt watching people listen to her new album for the first time. Bat for Lashes is an artist who takes a few years to write and record an album. Her songs are usually melancholic and come from dark places. If I were a musician like her, I would feel awkward showing my work of “art” in front of a crowd like this. If The Haunted Man is anything like her two previous albums, it will be deeply personal. But she seemed to weave through the crowd, conversing with everyone without a nervous breakdown. She smiled a lot, looking stunning in her dress. She seemed humble and earnest. As the record was playing for the second time, this time a bit lower in volume, people began to leave. The fantasy of seeing her perform in front of those photographs in Electric Lady Studios are long gone and I decide to leave with “Laura” echoing in my head.
I cannot wait until I get a real listen of the new album with just me and a pair of good headphones. The Haunted Man is out October 23rd on Capitol Records, listen to the first single “Laura” below.