With a quick glance at the artwork of her two latest albums, it’s easy to see that Natasha Khan—aka Bat for Lashes—doesn’t pick favorites between high drama and minimalism, and that she doesn’t scrimp on either in her creative pursuits. Clutching a gilt orb in each hand, affixed with a halo of rosebuds and stars and brandishing an embroidered sacred heart on a filthy camisole, Khan took on the role of a fallen icon in the middle of the indigo landscape donning 2009’s Two Suns. For the cover of The Haunted Man, Khan stands stark naked with a man as bare as she is hoisted over her shoulders, his dangling limbs providing just enough coverage to keep the censoring sheets of cardboard away on the record store shelves.
Side by side, Two Suns and The Haunted Man couldn’t look more different: one album cover sets an elaborate scene with terrestrial touches and jewel tones, while the other consists solely of a black and white photograph, its composition as simple as the subjects in it. And when it comes to the songs of Two Suns and The Haunted Man, this paradoxical balance of choreographed complication and stripping to the bare bones of the concept carries over. Both albums embrace Khan’s ability to float between delicate, minimal ballads (The Haunted Man’s “Laura,” Two Suns’ “Moon and Moon”) and elaborate compositions that employ everything from a men’s choir (“Oh Yeah,” The Haunted Man) to the unexpected company of violins, harps, and drum machines (“Daniel,” her first chart-topping single).
But it’s The Haunted Man that Khan dubs as the catalyst to a “new era” for her, and after hearing the marked differences in tone, weight and instrumentation in each track, it’s easy to see why.