You know, I actually didn't know what exactly to expect with Natasha Khan's second album. Her band Bat For Lashes' first album was filled with understated magic and mysticism that only really broke free from simple piano and harpsichord ditties on a few tracks - not that it stopped me from declaring it as one of my albums of 2007.
Two years later and we are presented with the equally hypnotic "Two Suns", a conceptual album that sees our Ms. Khan expanding her sound quite significantly. Having only ever heard "Daniel" and "Moon and Moon" before buying the album I wondered if it was all going to be low-key electronica and yet more piano musings. But no, opener "Glass" sort of blows that out of the water. It seems Natasha has a soft spot for tribal beats and ringing percussion mixed with dark guitars and her own amazing vocal range. And I DO love her vocal range.
"Glass" also shows Khan's love of metaphorical lyrics, singing about things that on the surface are incomprehensible ramblings. But hey, look! There's actually some deep meaning in there! "A thousand crystal towers"? Yes, definitely a metaphor. But let's not linger on her songwriting prowess and instead focus on the rest of the album.
The first five songs are written under Khan's own name but the second half of the album are ung by her alias Pearl, and the songs become increasingly interlinked. See how in "Pearl's Dream" there is a reference to "Good Love Town", the subject of the next song? Nifty stuff. Pearl's songs are undoubtedly bleaker in many ways, but they provide some of the more magical moments on the album. "Pearl's Dream" is perhaps Khan's best pop moment to date, while on "Two Planets" she seems to invoke the spirit of Bjork, yelping and echoing over layers and layers of drums and beats - very "Earth Intruders". In the first half of the record is "Sleep Alone", which looks like it's going to be the next single. It's understated, like a more upbeat version of her first ever single "Trophy" and includes some lovely sweeping vocals and little bursts of electro that give it a tougher edge.
Ah, Natasha. This album will bring you (and has brought you) commercial success. I like an album that shows evolution and progress, rather than a regression or much of the same. And "Two Suns" does that - it's a much more beefed up version of "Fur and Gold" and is intricately clever, using combinations of the powerful and the simple. Buy it - you won't regret it.