Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man (Parlophone)
IT SHOULD be a cause for concern that possibly the finest song here is a co-write between Natasha Khan (Bat For Lashes) and Lana Del Ray collaborator Justin Parker.
The song in question, ‘Laura’, is a sparse piano ballad, brilliantly sung by Khan, about a hipster chick whom the scene has long left behind. However this a showstopper the like of which Del Rey could only dream of coming up with.
‘Laura’ is musically different from the rest of the album, which is dominated by synth pop, avant-pop, and intelligent indie pop. Thematically though it fits the overall theme of The Haunted Man, which Khan has described as the need to move on from past “mistakes, burdens, and patterns”.
“Thank God I’m alive!” she declares on opener ‘Lilies’, in a voice that is both vulnerable and defiant. In the title track, an army style chorus asks: “Why did she touch my skin?” Everything is suffused with regret, looking back, and a striving to move on and accept, even if some of the emotional scars remain.
The Haunted Man is not an album which reveals itself on the first listens, but patience will bear rewards, as Khan, one of the most creative and intelligent pop songwriters out there, has delivered a mature and haunting album - perhaps her finest thus far.
Circuit Rider - Circuit Rider (Numero Records)
SO JIM Morrison did not die in Paris in 1971, he just skipped the French capital, lay low for a decade in the US south, and created an LP with buddies he met in its bars and juke joints.
Listening to this obscure, but fascinating album from 1980, which has just been re-issued, it is hard not to think otherwise. Surely that is Mr Mojo Risin’ declaiming stream-of-conscience Beat poetry over the free form guitar riffs on ‘Chinese’?
The singer is one Thorn Oehrig (there is little documentation on him and virtually none on the band) who has the bluesy growl of Morrison circa Morrison Hotel and LA Woman. Once you get past this Morrison fixation/homage, what emerges is an atmospheric album of psychedelic acoustic stoner rock, outlaw country-rock, blues, and odes to Hell’s Angles. The eighties may have arrived but for these guys it will always be 1971.
Given the hypnotic psych-poetry of ‘How Long’ (you can imagine these guys out in the west Texas desert playing the song), the brilliant, whiskey croaked, Southern Rock/country of ‘Billy Bad Billy’, and the Doors-esque folk of ‘Old Charlie Polecat’, this is an album fans of left-filed musical thinking would do well to checkout.