Khan draws many notable comparisons like Tori Amos, Annie Lennox, Kate Bush and Fiona Apple. What sets her apart from this unquestionably talented bunch is her willingness to explore controversial issues. Taking such topics as racism and sexism head on, Khan forces the listener to confront their own prejudices and hidden animosity. Of course, just taking one glance at the cover for The Haunted Man gets the message across pretty fast that Miss Khan is not afraid of controversy. On it, she provocatively stands stark naked with a nude man propped around her shoulders. Not exactly an album you’d want to bring home to your mother.
The Haunted Man comes some six years after Khan’s critically acclaimed debut “Fur and Gold” which earned her rock star status in the UK and a modest cult following in the U.S. It becomes clear after only a few listens that the years have been particularly good to Khan. She has not, by any means, lost her musical touch. The Haunted Man pulses with rhythmic life. From the very first note of the mellow and minimalistic title track to the tripped-out psychedelic fuzz of “Oh Yeah,” Khan owns the show.
The album is also remarkably diverse. Each track has its own unique sound and feel to it. The opening track “Lilies” is a quiet and contemplative piano ballad while “Winter Fields” is an intricate orchestral number driven by melodic strings and resounding percussion. Keeping the album fresh (as if it needed any refreshing), Khan has enlisted the help of fellow indie hipsters Beck and Portishead’s frontwoman Adrian Utley. Though all eleven tracks are well executed and splendidly entertaining, the standout track has got to be the poignant piano ballad “Laura,” a simple yet powerful composition that tugs at your heartstrings and will have you reaching for the tissues.
“Fur and Gold” earned Bat for Lashes abounding praise from her fellow United Kingdom countrymen but only mild applause in the States. It is my hope that “The Haunted Man” finally awards her the bountiful accolades she deserves and propels her from indie music talent to international superstar. The Haunted Man is hands down Bat for Lashes’ best work. All the tracks blend seamlessly into a unified whole, and nothing seems out of place or ill-conceived. Will it be a critical hit? It’s likely, but will it be a runaway success? I hope so. It bloody well should be.
Critic’s Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Eric Duffert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org