Bat For Lashes: The Haunted Man

Though Natasha Khan’s first two albums successfully delved into gothy, quasi-mystical synthpop echoed by contemporaries like Glasser and Fever Ray, they often lacked definition, failing to rise above the of-the-moment haze of their dense production. On “The Haunted Man,” however, Khan embarks on a sparse journey of loss and revival and, despite all of her haunting pain, the album’s gripping storytelling weaves a convincing portrait of a woman who has overcome her demons.

Khan begins the album with the breathy vocal cracks and whispered lyrics of “Lilies,” pulling the listener in with slowly building percussion before unleashing the orchestral build-up that only amplifies the “Thank God I’m alive/ Thank God I’m alive!” declaration within. Each track, though, has its own neo-gothic tale to tell — from the playful percussion tinkering and pointed lyrical repetition on “All Your Gold’s” to the simple and chilling story of a despondent Hollywood starlet in “Laura,” a piano-driven ballad that becomes eerily relatable because of its second-person perspective.

The words that best describe “The Haunted Man” are Khan’s own: “Where you see a wall, I see a door.” By the album’s end, she’s shed all the remaining bells and whistles from her earlier works, leaving in their place the maturity and grace of a seasoned artist. Natasha Khan’s ability to tell a bewitching story has only improved with “The Haunted Man,” as she overcomes the sorrows of her past and finally settles the score with the demons that plague her. (8/10)