With an adept ability for creating whimsical worlds in her sonic compositions, a concept album has always been in reach for Natasha Khan. Since the release of her debut record a decade ago, every Bat For Lashes album has been graciously theatrical in its own niche way, each becoming more focused and driven in its vision. While Two Suns and The Haunted Man were deeply sophisticated works, the momentum has sadly stopped here.
The Bride contains a central narrative that should be emotionally stirring, yet ends up flat and entirely forgettable. Much like Radiohead’s latest triumph, this is Khan’s softest and most ethereal effort yet, but isn’t nearly as affective or engaging. It starts as it means to go on: flimsy, restrained, and lacking an impetus.
After eventually building to some sense of drive with “Sunday Love”, the narrative is needlessly pounded home with a segment of tracks that are stagnant and overly conceptual. The grey surge of ambiance that comprises this central passage of The Bride makes the entire experience feel twice as long as it actually is. The instrumentals are far too subdued for these tracks to have any chance of making an impact, and the vocals are neither powerful nor delicate enough to compensate. Nothing here warrants the dramatic reading of “Widow’s Peak”, irrespective of how emotive it may be, and it falls flat on its face.
The Bride never gives itself the chance to truly soar, and it’s genuinely boring. It gets points for cohesiveness, but this is redundant when the tracklist lacks a sizeable amount of standout songs. You’re forced to wait until the final track for something even close to the stunning craft of “Laura”, “Glass”, or “Moon and Moon”. It’s not so much a disappointment as it is utterly underwhelming. I don’t doubt Khan’s intentions, and I respect her a great deal, but this is an unfortunate misstep that I won’t be returning to.
5 out of 10
This was 50 minutes of anti-climax. Having been passingly acquainted with Bats for Lashes by Natasha Khan aficionado and shrine builder André, I was quite looking forward to this one. Khan’s recent side project Sexwitch wasn’t without its limitations, but there were enough creative juices flowing through it to expect some haunting and groovy ambient splashes from The Bride.
Instead, the record is jarringly pedestrian. It lacks any sense of energy or urgency, and the ambient cloud she forms in lieu of either is wispy at the best of times. I get the impression that Khan was banking on her voice, lyrics, and delivery carrying the show, and they don’t. Even her vocals, usually so reliably soaring, feel tethered to their melodies here. One notable exception is “In Your Bed”, the last track goddamnit, which boasts both delicacy and oomph.
The second half of the album shores things up a little, but by the time it’s been reached you’ve listened to a flatline for close to half an hour. In isolation “Close Encounters” is an elegant and potentially seductive track; in The Bride it serves as a comedown from a high the album never achieves, and so just winds up being a down.
Which sums up the work as a whole, really. Failing to assert any distinct form, it gets mired in itself. The disappointing bottom line is this isn’t as good as Sexwitch, and that wasn’t exactly anything to write home about.
5 out of 10
The opening of The Bride sounded promising. With a clear concept and some airy, delicate instrumentals, the new Bat For Lashes release could’ve seen the same success as previous albums. Unfortunately, it’s the development which isn’t quite there for me. A few interesting instrumentals are peppered throughout the album, but these largely don’t evolve from the opening moments of each track.
Natasha Khan’s vocals are as beautiful and delicate as expected, but are noticeably safer than in tracks such as “Laura”, the first single from her previous album. These main two elements work together to provide music which washes over its listener for the majority of the 50 minute play time without much effect.
There are exceptions, “In God’s House” and “Sunday Love” being clear stand out tracks from the rest, and much of the latter third of the album is more engaging to listen to. “Widow’s Peak” should’ve been an intriguing, atmospheric interlude to punctuate the album, but with little to back it up before it, it too falls a little flat.
I didn’t expect to be giving such a middling review to Bat For Lashes output, but The Bride really doesn’t do enough to warrant negativity nor overwhelming positivity. It’s a familiar sound for listeners of previous Bat For Lashes output, but you won’t find anything new here.
5 out of 10