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The Haunted Man

This week, songwriter Natasha Khan (better known by her stage name Bat for Lashes) released her first studio album since the critically acclaimed 2009 album Two Suns. Natasha had already begun making a name for herself in 2008 when she opened for Radiohead, but it is Two Suns’ hit single Daniel that marked her entrance into the mainstream music scene.

The Haunted Man has been in the making since May 2010, and it is not hard to tell that Khan has been taking her sweet time. The album is filled with solid tracks, and it is masterfully composed, arranged, and produced by none other than Khan herself.

The overall impression of the album is good, but The Haunted Man is not entirely without filler — a general problem in today’s music industry, and one that can perhaps be traced back to the availability of single-track purchases. Khan could have been more liberal in axing the album’s weaker tracks, and boldly released a shorter, but all killer, album.

Although the album has plenty of tracks worth mentioning—such as “Lilies,” “Oh Yeah,” “Winter Fields” and “The Haunted Man”—”All Your Gold,” “Laura,” and “Rest Your Head” are the album’s strongest. “All Your Gold” and “Rest Your Head” both exemplify Natasha’s incorporation of a vast array of instruments to create an experimental and unpredictable, yet rich and cohesive sound.

The album’s lead single, Laura, might be familiar to some. It was first performed in May of this year, and has been a staple of Khan’s repertoire throughout her European summer tour. An intensely quiet track with minimal instrumentation, carried by Khan’s haunting, powerful voice, it perfectly demonstrates that although Khan has mastered the subtleties of composition, arrangement, and productions, she need not depend on these tools to prove herself as a gifted musician.

There is no way of getting around the fact that the distractions of mainstream success often lead to subpar sequels. It is a pleasant surprise, then, that The Haunted Man is a through-and-through well-tailored album, and a suitable follow-up to Two Suns — a nice addition to the indie-loving cobber’s record collection.

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