Bat for Lashes Fur & Gold

A year after its initial release in the UK, Bat for Lashes’ Mercury Prize-nominated debut album finally gets a deserved North American domestic release. The project of Natasha Khan, Bat for Lashes evolved into a proper four-piece band in order to capture the vision of this extraordinary songwriter. Khan’s art school background can certainly be felt in the unorthodox arrangements, much like how her nursery school teaching past bestows an imaginative stream of childlike fantasy to her debut album, Fur & Gold. The air that Khan and her mates create is ornate and mystifying, as if a cloud of fog hovers over each track. As haunting as some moments are, however, Bat for Lashes are far from some sort of attempt to fill the racks of the goth section at your record shop (though this album could reach out to fans of Siouxsie or even Dead Can Dance). No, in essence this is striking pop music that exudes the same kind of spiritually enhanced atmosphere as any Kate Bush album, or Björk’s Vespertine. Songs like "The Wizard” and "Trophy” have enormous intensity, spotlighting the high drama Khan instils, which is attained via the imposing group of gifted musicians operating everything from Autoharp to trombone to harmonium. At the other end of the spectrum, "What’s A Girl to Do?” is a standard pop song that could have been written by Phil Spector for Gwen Stefani, but Khan refuses to let it fall into an abyss of glossed-over girl pop. Strange yet warmly inviting, Fur & Gold has a timelessness to it that should see it age as well as its preceding contemporaries like Hounds of Love and Debut. (Echo/Parlophone)