After the disappointingly vapid nature of 2016’s The Bride, it’s a pleasure to hear such playful music from Bat For Lashes once again. This is Natasha Khan’s love letter to the ’80s. Inside Lost Girls you hear everything from pop sensations Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and Prince, to the more experimental names of David Bowie, The Cure, and Talking Heads. Add to that the countless homages to John Williams, alongside the music of Stranger Things, and what you essentially have here is Khan’s musical reimagining of The Lost Boys. It’s really quite fun.
However, while the songwriting is a lot stronger than The Bride, Lost Girls is still guilty of feeling somewhat predictable. The ’80s cliches are enjoyable yet obviously overused, and there is a clear absence of originality. Chances are that won’t matter to most listeners, particularly when it sounds this good, but it’s noticeable all the same. Although The Haunted Man was likewise keen to parade its influences, I still think it’s the closest Khan has gotten to her own distinctive sound. Two Suns, meanwhile, continues to exhibit some of her strongest tracks to date. Ultimately, Lost Girls stands firm as a satisfying-yet-unspectacular entry in the Bat for Lashes discography. It’s practically impossible not to recommend it to those who share Khan’s affection for the ’80s.7 10
Favourite tracks // So Good
Up to now my relationship with for Bat for Lashes has drifted between noncommittal fondness and mild disappointment. This time I have to concede I have stepped up to a little crush. Just a little one. Lost Girls does not entirely avoid Khan’s traditional shortcomings (airiness and filler, mainly) but it is probably her most cohesive project to date, and has some serious groove credentials.
The mystic shaman vibe is alive and well here, but it’s paired with a lush, forceful ‘80s aesthetic that at times borders on irresistible. From the whining bass in “The Hunger” to the voodoo funk of “Feel for You”, there’s a super solid core to the record. At peak moments there’s little to separate Lost Girls from the likes of Talking Heads or even Plastic Beach-era Gorillaz. There are nods to the old, but the atmosphere is fresh and vivid. Khan’s vocals are predictably lovely, but it’s the instrumentals and production that make Lost Girls shine.
The standout moment for me is “Vampires”, an instrumental track that goes full saxophone and pulls it off masterfully. It’s audacious, but then why shouldn’t it be? A little impetus can do the world of good. There are lulls, because Bat for Lashes albums always have lulls, but there’s plenty of oomph, too. This is not a seminal Lashes moment but it is a step in the right direction, and probably one of 2019’s most agreeable listens.7 10
Favourite tracks // Vampires
Feel for You
Bat For Lashes returns after three years, and in Lost Girls it sounds like Natasha Kahn had real fun during its recording.
Retaining the ethereal, delicate vocals we’ve seen at the centre of all her material, Khan adds hearty portions of ’80s pop to the mix, with satisfying, chunky, squelchy bass lines, soaring guitar lines, and drum patterns that I can’t help but compare with the likes of Talking Heads. “Feel For You” is a prime example of this. It demonstrates more of a focus on the instrumental, leaving the vocal with a simple hook of its own.
This lean towards instrumentals isn’t isolated either, as “Vampires” remains entirely instrumental, moody, and atmospheric, making way for a sax solo that leaves no doubt in the listener’s mind about the album’s influences. It comes as a welcome change of pace too, as every track offers a new twinkling synth hook or snappily reverb’d drum line that makes it hard not to at least shake a limb.
Many tracks here are quintessential pop tracks of the ’80s. That does introduce a limit to the depths the record can explore, but I can’t help but find an enjoyable listen on each playthrough. “So Good” is another highlight here, which keeps a simple arrangement but has me smiling through its entirety.
I’ve had a great time with Lost Girls and I can even see it making top 10 lists by the end of the year. It relies on a small set of influences, and by the final third, it narrowly escapes a slight sense of drifting, but there’s a lot to love in this tracklist, and that’s not something I’ve felt for a lot of music in 2019.8 10
Favourite tracks // So Good
Feel for You