Bat For Lashes – Two Suns Apr16

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Bat For Lashes – Two Suns

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Bat For Lashes – Two Suns (Astralwerks; released April 6th, 2009)

Bat For Lashes is just one of Natasha Khan‘s alter-egos. Another is Pearl, a “destructive, self-absorbed, blonde, femme fatale of a persona who acts as a direct foil to Khan‘s more mystical, desert-born spiritual self” so says her press release. Okay, I was hoping someone in her camp would mention that she’s also a dead ringer for Kate Bush, but that comparison has been done to death from the reviews of her last record, Fur And Gold, so we can effectively put that to rest. While that album had two of my favorite songs of ’06 on it (Prescilla & What’s A Girl To Do), it still felt like it was a collection of songs rather than a fully-realized, cohesive record.

Not so with Two Suns– I don’t want to say it’s a “concept album” but it definitely has a thematic quality to it. Besides for the appearance of Pearl, the biggest meme that jumps out (just from the title) is the orbit of celestial bodies around the Earth (also used as a metaphor for the various bodies on Earth rotating and vibrating around Khan‘s sleeping habits; sun goes down over an empty bed on Sleep Alone, one body lying next to her on Daniel, yet another next to her on awaking in the morning on Siren Song). Khan also fancies herself as royalty- referring to herself as a “queen” (on Peace Of Mind) and lamenting her “thousand knights gone” (also a double entendre for “a thousand nights gone”? Depends on how you read it; I’m reading it both ways here) on Pearl’s Dream.

With the illustrious Yeasayer providing the bass and beats and the creepy Scott Walker (on the album’s closer, The Big Sleep), it makes for a more serious and less “quirky” vibe this time; there’s a healthy dose of heartbreak all over this record as Khan wraps her ethereal voice around poetic (and at times mythical) lyrics, at times evoking the imagery of a landscape full of pre-historic, yet abandoned monolithic stone earthworks and the pagan rituals and worship around said monuments. I could mention Stevie Nicks but that doesn’t do Natasha proper justice; she’s tapped into something way more cosmic than Edge Of Seventeen or Stand Back. (I’d be foolish to compare Bat For Lashes to any of Stevie‘s Fleetwood Mac stuff; that shit is beyond classic and somewhat untouchable. Stevie‘s solo stuff; however, has always been questionable in my eyes and is open game.)

Anyway, witchcraft aside- this is an interesting album because it’s both an intense listen and has a cohesiveness that Fur And Gold lacked; there’s so many references on this record that demand deeper exploration- on the track Two Planets Khan sings: “the Song of Solomon died in the battleground / the Song of Solomon died in love’s battleground…” The Song of Solomon, also known as the Song of Songs is the ancient Biblical poem; an allegory of the relationship between man and woman leading up to the consummation of their marriage- so, Song of Solomon + Two Planets (Mars and Venus = man and woman) and their love drying up before it gets a chance to… ?

Another interesting theme is the idea of Two Suns (as title and as a line in the album’s opening track Glass); To be made of glass, when two suns are shining / The battle becomes blinding…” This could be the parhelion effect, I’ve read about multiple suns being seen from the refraction of ice crystals and cirrus clouds giving the appearance of two (or three) suns in the sky at once. It probably has a much deeper meaning than that; like the possibility of Sol Invictus (the Roman sun god created right before Christianity spread into the empire) having a female counterpart; again, “battle” being mentioned- Khan seems to be pained about the state of her love being in constant flux…

…or I may just be grabbing at straws, reading too much into a pop record.

Either way, this album has got me thinking about so many ideas that may or may not be in the music. Which is probably Bat For Lashes‘ intention in the first place; if a record can get you to delve deep into it and make you pay attention, it’s probably a pretty great record.

Tracklisting:

1 Glass
2 Sleep Alone
3 Moon and Moon
4 Daniel
5 Peace of Mind
6 Siren Song
7 Pearl’s Dream
8 Good Love
9 Two Planets
10 Traveling Woman
11 The Big Sleep (Ft. Scott Walker)

Bat For Lashes