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Bat For Lashes / Lost Girls review

Bat For Lashes / Lost Girls

Let’s be honest, ‘liking’ a new album – if it’s any good – shouldn’t be hard work. Yes, we all have records in our collection that we couldn’t ‘get into’ for a long time and then something clicked and they became all-time favourites, but these tend to be the exceptions rather than the rule.

I tried really hard to enjoy Bat For Lashes previous offering, The Bride, but sadly it was a case of stilted at the altar – great concept but barring the odd highlight (‘Sunday Love’) it was a collection of some rather rambling melodies, unengaging songs and brittle production. Maybe it’s me, I thought…

Well, having listened – a lot – to the new album, Lost Girls, which was released last month, I’m pleased to confirm that it wasn’t me. It is indeed easy to like a great record because I enjoyed everything about Lost Girls almost immediately.

Natasha Khan is back on form with a wonderfully warm album that bathes in 1980s sunshine and goes off in adventures as the sun sets and darkness falls. The pre-release PR blurb talked of the album being “full of romance, an homage to Los Angeles, to being a kid in the 80s” and we are promised  “heavy bass lines, synth arpeggios, Iranian pop beats, cascading choruses” and some of Natasha’s “finest songwriting to date”. For once, this hyperbole is fairly accurate. Let’s just say I’m sure she’s been enjoying Stranger Things.

Khan has new digs – living out in LA – and a new label, having left Parlophone for AWAL Recordings. She is in fact echoing the exact move the Pet Shop Boys completed in 2013. They left Parlophone to join ‘label services’ company Kobalt (AWAL are owned by Kobalt).

So Lost Girls represents something of a fresh start on a few fronts. Sumptuous opener ‘Kids in the Dark’ kicks off proceedings but it’s ‘The Hunger’ that immediately sounds like a classic. Heavy sustained organ chords are the glue that hold everything together, with a rhythmic chorus leading to a monster funky bass in the second verse. Khan’s vocals are as impressive as ever with both call-and-response arrangements and a wonderful selection of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’! The guitar sound, like much of Lost Girls references The Cure (not a bad thing).

‘Desert Man’ is a mid-paced number with the electronic drums prevalent, while ‘Feel For You’ is a semi-instrumental, with infectious programmed rhythms and plenty of those ’80s synth arpeggios. ‘Jasmine’ has spoken word verses over a squidgy synth backing, reminiscent of Sarah Nixey singing ‘Child Psychology’ with Black Box Recorder (“don’t be seduced by those baby blues”). This song as a great post-chorus section.

‘Vampires’ keeps up the theme of movie/night time/80s vibe, and again this sax led instrumental does more than tip its hat to The Cure. As with most of Lost Girls it’s densely layered with loads of great ‘bits’ going on.  Like ‘Jasmine’, this song clocks in at under three minutes, and so doesn’t outstay its welcome (the whole album is a refreshingly short 43 minutes).

‘So Good’ is one of the highlights of Lost Girls. It combines a Men Without Hats ‘Safety Dance’ synth sound with a Colonel Abrams style keyboard bass. Natasha keeps to the lower end of her vocal range for a breathy performance, but the headline with ‘So Good’ is just how great a pop song it is. It’s a bouncy delight and incredibly poppy, with simple but effective lyrics. I’ll be amazed if this isn’t issued as a ‘single’ although of course it won’t be a hit, which is something close to a travesty for a something this great.

‘Safe Tonight’ keeps the pace up with an a ambient clubby vibe, while penultimate number Peach Sky borrows the rulebook of pop from Tears For Fears Songs From The Big Chair, with ‘Shout’-like rhythms and percussion. It has a slightly bonkers lead keyboard line, but you can’t not be seduced when Khan whispers “Am I coming on too strong?” against an atmospheric synth pad backing. Some backwards vocals are thrown in for good measure along with more synth arpeggios!

Everything calms down for the final track Mountains, which is Bat For Lashes in more ‘classic’ songwriter-y mode (think ‘Laura’). “Sing to me in the dark” pleads Natasha.

Lost Girls was born out of Khan’s film-maker aspirations but while she directed the video for the title track (which was written for Stephen King’s Castle Rock TV show) no film has emerged as yet. Much of the album was produced by Charles Scott IV, who amongst other things is the composer and music supervisor at Bad Robot (J.J. Abrams’ production company).

Anyone can shove a few synths arpeggios on tracks and wear an 80s revival badge, but Lost Girls works because it’s a wonderful cocktail of great songs, effortless melodies and Khan’s amazing voice – that can apparently do anything. Its brilliant pop textures, borrowed from the past, do not flood the creative engine and the individualistic spirit that is Natasha Khan and Bat For Lashes shines through. The whole thing is a triumph. Highly recommended.

Lost Girls is out now.

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1. Kids In The Dark
2. The Hunger
3. Feel For You
4. Desert Man
5. Jasmine
6. Vampires
7. So Good
8. Safe Tonight
9. Peach Sky
10. Mountains

25 responses to Bat For Lashes / Lost Girls review

  1. Shawn C. says:

    Great review Paul. I’ve really been enjoying this album myself for a few weeks. One question – you note that the “title track” was written for Castle Rock – however, as far as I can tell, there is no “title track” or song called “Lost Girls.” Seems like a silly question, but am I missing something?

  2. Michael B says:

    LOVED The Bride. The album told an engaging emotional story with accurate melodic sounds and rhythms. Yes, it’s different than the others which I thoroughly enjoyed as well. But I am glad she isn’t churning the same sound over and over like so many “artists” nowadays.

  3. Dan says:

    Absolutely fantastic album, great review.

  4. Russell says:

    I’m a huge fan but also could not get into The Bride at all. Despite the Mercury nomination, I found very little to cling to other than an interesting concept, which I felt detracted from the music. Style over substance.

    The Haunted Man and Two Suns are brilliant. Really like this return to form.

  5. David Carter says:

    Gree , not that familiart with her prvious work apart from the tracks Daniel and Laura which I do like. This album however is fast becoming one of my favourites of the year, hits those 80s nostalgic vibes but has quality songs to match.

  6. Francois says:

    I agree to almost everything you wrote Paul, except for Hunger which is the track I like the least. This said, it is still a good song, but the rest of the album is way better to my hears. I LOVE “Vampires” and “Feel For You” and “So Good” is indeed a delicacy..
    After the Bride I was not sure I would pick this one up, but after a single listen of the album on my legal streaming subscription, I bought it on my way back home and listen to the CD, which sounds real good, production-wise, by the way.
    A must buy for 2019!

  7. Andy says:

    It would be useful if your price comparison tool didn’t include market sellers on Amazon. The £6.94 quoted is actually an American seller with £4.01 shipping to be added.

    I’m patiently waiting for this to drop into the “2 for £15” in HMV along with Sheryl Crow and a few others. Shouldn’t be long now….

  8. Harrison says:

    Listening to this album reminds me of Goldfrapp’s Supernature, loads of 80’s influences in the music and vocals with a great contemporary twist.
    Thanks for covering it Paul.

  9. CJ says:

    I’ve been wanting to get this album since it came out, but finances have been tight. Your review made me say “money be damned” and grab a copy from Amazon (I’d rather get it from a record store, but the closest one is over an hour away). Love the two tracks you provided, and can’t wait to listen to the rest when it comes.

  10. Wax Monster X says:

    Yup. Totally LUV the new album. I liked The Bride as well but it was a lot to take though thematically. Digging the new Chrissie Hynde as well but fear the uniqueness and lush arrangements will wear off in time. For now, a fine collection of classics interpreted.

  11. Ryk says:

    Somewhat reminiscent of Enigma/Delirium I find.

  12. Paul Nesmith says:

    Have’nt listened to Bat for Lashes since Two Suns as i enjoyed her debut Fur & Gold,can’t believe its 10 years at which point i started to lose interest,i felt she was slightly overshadowed by the likes of Lana Del Rey,Grimes and Zola Jesus even Joan as Policewoman who were producing more interesting material but from the snippets i have heard of Lost Girls may renew my enthusiasm for her as she is a unique artist and makes the type of music i am drawn to and you have to give credit for anyone trying to make original sounds and ideas in an increasingly saturated and ageing art form as popular music.

  13. SimonP says:

    Totally random; just as I was reading the TFF comparison bit Shout came on the radio.

  14. Denis Woods says:

    Great review Paul. I absolutely love this album. Probably going to be my album of the year.

  15. Andrea says:

    I’m not familiar with Bat for Lashes, but based on “The Hunger”, it’s just as unimpressive as most pop I’m hearing nowadays.
    Nondescript music, nondescript arrangement, nondescript melody… did I say nondescript?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Horses for courses. I love The Hunger.

      • Andrea says:

        Yes and no. There must be some objectivity after all. You really can’t compare what we’re hearing here to the inventiveness, musicianship and originality of – say – The Roches (talking about female pop) just to mention an undeservedly unknown act…

    • Stuart Ansell says:

      Other opinions are available.

      I think it’s dead ace, and would happily follow that with a smiling emoji face if I were that kind of person, which clearly I am not.

  16. ALAIN BRENEZ says:

    Agree and I’m looking forward to see her live again !

  17. Kauwgompie says:

    Thank you Paul for treating us also to new music. I had never heard of Bat For Lashes nor Natasha Khan but I love it!! Absolutely brilliant.

  18. Gavin H says:

    Great review, Paul and I’m with you completely on The Bride. It’s the only album of hers that I haven’t bought and I kept going back to it on Spotify to listen again, thinking, ‘maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for it last time’, but always feeling ultimately disappointed. Lost Girls is wonderful and has already had more listens in this house that The Bride managed. My wife, who has never been a fan, even said, ‘this is good, what is it’, when she heard it playing last week. I’ll maybe return to The Bride again at some point in the future, but I really don’t think you can make yourself like something if it just doesn’t connect with you.

  19. Sami says:

    I think all her albums are great and I love each of them.

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