Bat For Lashes – Two Suns (2009)

My first proper album review in a few months! :O I’m done with finals, yay! :D
bat-coverBat For Lashes, also known as Natasha Khan, came out with Two Suns in April. It leaked in March, however, and at that time I thought it may be my favorite album of the year so far. Now it’s May, and it’s still my fave of the year so far. This is a really beautiful album, full of unique songwriting and excellent production.

“Glass” starts the album off calmly enough, before thumping drums usher in an epic storm. Khan’s deliciously visual lyrics tell an adventurous love story replete with a “knight in crystal armor” and “two suns spinning at two different speeds.” That particular lyric, though only one line in a song full of regal imagery, is probably my favorite because the words, combined with Khan’s delivery and the music sweeping around, are full of motion and energy. Next, twangy guitars and deep bass get “Sleep Alone” going. Excellently detailed percussion pushes the verses along, and once you get to the chorus – ah! “Lonely, lonely, lonely,” Khan wails, supported by heavier production and some nice, warm synths. I love the ethereal “aah” that washes over the mix after the wonderful line, “they say for every high high, there must be a low, low, low, low, low.”

l_ee49b0ef34dc4138803481f9743e2b34A delicate piano ballad with lovely strings (or synths) for atmosphere, “Moon And Moon” features otherworldly echoes of each line in the second verse. I really like those mournful “ooh”s that make an appearance toward the end of the song. Sad lyrics about not seeing the one you love anymore might get you down, but fear not – “Daniel” will pick your spirits back up! You know that guitar lick that heralds the arrival of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)”? That’s what the almost trumpet-like synthesizers that set the mood for “Daniel” remind me of. What I love about “Daniel” is that the synths aren’t really trying to sound like real instruments (except, perhaps, for the string synths that pop up every once in awhile). It’s like this song takes place in another time – another world! Love the way Khan intones “just kids in the eye of the storm” – what a great line, and fab delivery! All that greatness, plus the song’s even danceable. You can’t get any better than that!

Foreboding synths and a jangly guitar start “Peace Of Mind” off. What makes this song awesome is the gospel chorus that repeats each line Khan sings. Khan’s vocal performance is particularly dramatic in this track. I loe the dark, country-tinged sound of this one – her delivery of “peace of mind” is more a threat than a chorus! “Siren Song” is up next. You can hear some nifty flute work in this! This is sort of the calm in the storm that “Glass” started, yet the choruses are full of a restless energy, heavy with drums and dark lyrics. We bop back to dancing percussion with “Pearl’s Dream.” “A star in me needs to be free,”Khan proclaims, before mentioning battles, kingdoms, and a thousand night in the chorus. It’s all underscored by infectious beats and handclaps. Again, the synth work, which is amazing throughout Two Suns, gives this song a unique sound. The “you know that it’s time to go up” melody almost sounds like it could have been on the radio in the 1960s. Cool stuff.

22354Organ takes the spotlight in “Good Love,” the name of a town Khan “passed… last night in a dream” (I absolutely love her lyrics!). “Good Love” drifts lazily along, but with purpose, and before you know it “Two Planets” swings into view. A solo spoken word intro and battle-ready drums begin this track. “I am one of two planets dancing” and other magical lyrics like it soar above ringing, jingling percussion. This is more like an experience than a song – you’ll want to listen to it over and over again to hear all the neat production touches (which is true of the whole album, really!). Creepy deep vocal swoop in near the end, and then we continue our journey through Two Suns with “Travelling Woman.” It’s a song of encouragement to a, well, “travelling woman,” to, among other things, “never fall in love with potential.” Piano and a leisurely drumbeat give this a timeless, ballad-y feel. Khan’s vocals and the instrumentation become a little more aggressive about half-way through the track. The track quietly but prettily ends on a fade-out.

The album closes with “The Big Sleep.” Wonderfully theatrical, this one, with lyrics about “spotlights coming down from heaven” and the acknowledgement that “it’s curtains-down time.” Khan’s lovely voice is joined by Scott Walker’s deep, dark vocals on this eerie and engaging closing track. The last half of the track features just a haunting solo piano, and ends with some kind of synthesized white noise pulses.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Bat For Lashes’ 2006 debut, Fur And Gold, failed to win me over. Two Suns, however, has got me positively Batty! Check this album out on iTunes or in stores. :D

Let’s try this again!

I said I was back… but that was in late March! School has been keeping me extra-busy, but I’m determined to keep this blog full of my rambling thoughts. ;)

Great new albums have been released or leaked recently. I’ll be writing proper reviews of my favorites soon, but for now, here are the albums that you should check out right quick! ;)

  • Bat For Lashes’ Two Suns, released April 7 in the US. Just beautiful. It’s on iTunes, on, pretty much everywhere, so you have no excuse to not listen to it! ;)
  • IAMX’s Kingdom of Welcome Addiction, to be released in May. It was well worth the wait – the album is full of IAMX’s lush, industrial-infused electronic rock and his idiosyncratic, dark-minded lyrics. Search Google for it, have a sneaky listen, and then buy it when it’s released! :)
  • Lal Meri, a trio that includes Nancy Kaye (formerly known as Rosey) and chill-out maestro Carmen Rizzo, have released their debut album titled Lal Meri. And what a gorgeous album it is! Download it from iTunes or Amazon or wherever and get lost in the beautiful grooves!
  • Sandra released her comeback album of sorts (a triumphant return after her divorce from Enigma mastermind Michael Cretu), Back To Life, in March. It’s characterized by bright, happy lyrics and fabulous music that matches – light years (Kylie reference intended!) from The Art Of Love, a darker album that had the potential to be an introspective, intimate sort of record, but fell short of that mark.
  • Polly Scattergood. Oh, Polly. After listening to her debut, self-titled album, I just wasn’t sure what to think. I’m still kind of in two minds about Polly Scattergood. I’m this close to loving it, but I can’t quite commit to that feeling yet. At first listen the songs sounded super minimal, with lyrics that could be interpreted as pretentious. But! I felt compelled to revisit the album a week or two after listening to it the first time. I found myself enchanted and haunted by the first track, “I Hate The Way,” and this feeling continued through the whole album. I really wanted to hear what else Polly was going to sing, what other melodies she was going to plink out on the keyboard, what other atmospherics she was going to weave. Are her lyrics pretentious? You know what, I don’t even care. They work. Polly Scattergood makes you care about what she sings. There’s something about this girl. Her stark musical illustrations are polarizing, I think, and she will definitely strike some listeners as rubbish. But those who give her a chance might just discover that she’s really something special.
  • Hande Yener, a fab Turkish pop star, came out with her newest album, Hayrola? (What’s Up?, I think is how it translates) last week. She’s definitely worth a listen – her ice-queen electro-pop sound is hypnotic (fittingly, her last album was titled Hipnoz!) and catchy at the same time.

Singles and such

You’d be forgiven if you thought I’d dropped off the face of the earth – it’s been eons since my last real update!

To start things off, here are some songs I’ve been adoring for… well, a good while. :)

  • Pet Shop Boys are back with their new single “Love Etc.” from forthcoming album Yes (which I’m so so excited about!). It’s classic PSB, with plinking synths and a wonderful chorus.
  • Bat For Lashes (aka Natasha Khan) will be coming out with her new album Two Suns this April. The first single from the album, the beautifully layered “Daniel,” is out with a fabulously freaky video. I tried to get into her first album, 2006’s Fur and Gold, but sadly could only find myself enjoying the first few tracks. I’ll be giving it another try now, though, because I’ve had a sneaky listen to Two Suns and it has already gained a place on my “best of 2009” list (yeah, I keep track of my faves in list form in my head all year!).
  • Sandra, of 80s Europop classic “Maria Magdalena,” returns with a gospel-flavored feel-good song called “In A Heartbeat.” Her last album, The Art of Love, felt like it was all spoken – it seemed like only the choruses featured Sandra singing! “In A Heartbeat” is a fine return to form, beautifully produced, really really catchy – and no spoken/sung bits! ;)
  • I gave the new single – “Wild” – from Valeriya a try, despite never having heard of her before, but now I’m definitely looking forward to more music from her! Actually, I’m not even sure if this is her new single – her UK website says something about another song called “Back to Love” being released in April. So I’m not sure what’s going on with “Wild”… Anyways – great beats and cool guitars. :)
  • Anjulie is a new artist with a voice like Nelly Furtado, but her tone is a little sweeter. She will be releasing her debut album, Boom, sometime this year (it leaked early though – and via another sneaky listen, I can tell ya that it’s really cool!). She released an EP in late 2008 so I guess “Boom” is the lead single. It’s got this awesome deep guitar riff, and then when the chorus comes in – “boom, sha-la-ka…” – that’s it. You’re hooked! :)
  • Calvin Harris, that electro kid, has a new club-ready dance single out called “I’m Not Alone.” Love those shrieking synths!
  • I’m addicted to Dizzee Rascal‘s “Dance Wiv Me (Jason Nevins Radio Edit)”, which features Calvin Harris and Chrome. It’s club, rap, and rock all rolled into one fab package. I didn’t listen to the original in 2008 but I’m loving this 2009 attempt to bring it to the USA. :)
  • I’m not a big fan of the album version of Beyonce‘s “Diva,” but “Diva (Maurice Joshua Remix)” – now that’s good stuff. So danceable, and a bit funky too! :)
  • Lily Allen‘s back with “The Fear,” the lead single from her neat new album It’s Not Me, It’s You. “The Fear” is pure pop with excellent beats and clever lyrics like “I’m a weapon of massive consumption.”
  • A new trio of musicians, Lal Meri, is out with “Bad Things”, from their debut self-titled album. Lal Meri features the smoky, delicious vocals of Nancy Kaye, who has previously released two albums under the name Rosey. I love her voice and it really suits the lounge-y, psychedelic trip-hop of “Bad Things”. Definitely a new group to listen out for.
  • Marina And The Diamonds have a couple of songs out, and I’ve gotten hooked on “Obsessions.” It’s a beautiful song, and Marina has a distinctive voice, almost theatrical but not in an annoying way. Can’t wait for their album!
  • Patrick Wolf is due to release an album this year and his first single from it, “Vulture,” is absolutely addictive. I really hope that this deep, dark, and rather sexy sound carries over to the rest of the album. :) (The video in that link is a little NSFW, so wait till you get home to watch it!)
  • Last but not least is Chester French. “She Loves Everybody” is a single from their forthcoming album, and it’s just great pop/rock. Synths flourishes don’t sound out of place in the largely guitar-based instrumentation, and I’ve gotta mention the beats – I’m a sucker for a good beat. :)