It’s been 10 years since Bat For Lashes’ sophomore album, and it remains the most compelling work in her catalogue. Whereas 2016’s The Bride suffered from being a lofty concept album, Two Suns functions perfectly fine inside and outside of its prepared image. “Pearl’s Dream” and “Siren Song” work well within Khan’s primary blueprint, whereas “Glass”, “Moon and Moon” and “Daniel” are brilliant pop songs, irrespective of any particular concept. Two Suns mostly avoids convolution in that sense, and the nature of its songwriting feels effortless in comparison to that of her latest record. That said, it still requires a level of patience to get to the bottom of some of the less immediate tracks. Going from the excellent ’80s disco/rock/pop anthem “Daniel” to the pedestrian “Peace of Mind” is always a bit of a struggle, and “Travelling Women” feels like a lacklustre way to flow into the spellbinding closer “The Big Sleep”.
As has always been the case with Bat For Lashes, there are an abundance of glaring influences on Two Suns. It’s difficult to say that Khan ever actually owns the sound outside of the opening and closing tracks. The aforementioned “Daniel” is excellent of course, but it’s pretty much a Fleetwood Mac romp. “Two Planets” is one of the more distinct tracks in the albums second half, and it almost owes its entire existence to Bjork. It’s not that anything here feels stolen. In fact, Khan’s willingness to wear her influences more forthrightly was a welcome inclusion after her promising-yet-slender debut album. Two Suns has ambitions of being on the same platform as Homogenic or Hounds of Love. Unfortunately, the lack of originality prevents it from getting there. Throughout her career, Khan has had aspirations of blending multiple styles and ideologies to form her palettes of sound. Two Suns feels like the most satisfying result so far, and it gets close to being very good indeed.7 10
Favourite tracks // Glass
The Big Sleep
When we reviewed The Bride I thought it was a shame to catch Natasha Khan at her worst. Oh no, I thought, this can’t be a fair picture of her. Turns out it wasn’t far off. Two Suns is a far better album than The Bride. Oftentimes it’s lovely, but on the whole there’s an airiness and absence of purpose that, after listening to three different projects, I’m learning to accept is part and parcel of the Bat for Lashes experience.
The opening stretch of the record is a sumptuous, textured tapestry of sounds worthy of Kate Bush. It’s dreamlike and oddly genre-less, with Khan’s vocals more than strong enough to hold the music together. The rumble of “Sleeping Alone” is a standout, bolstered by a tender theatricality shown off particularly well in “Moon and Moon”. Much of the album has an easy oddity comparable to something like Hunky Dory. It’s a seductive sound, and early on the experience is good enough to make any lack of direction unimportant.
Two Suns does fade in its second half. At least I think it does. You can only drift for so long. While there are reprieves (“Peace of Mind” has a solid primal folk groove the album could do with more of) it isn’t until the closer that the quality really picks up again. And tender as “The Big Sleep” is, it is undone by the weak lead in. It amounts to an ethereal, oddly hollow experience. Two Sun’s silk-like quuality keeps its head well above water, but I can’t help but feel Khan’s capable of more.7 10
Favourite tracks // Sleep Alone
Peace of Mind
Natasha Khan has a knack for creating ethereal, cavernous music laced with hints of her influences from the ’80s and her contemporaries. Two Suns had high expectations to live up to off the back of the debut, and it almost pulls it off.
The opening third is a roaring success in my book, with “Glass” and “Sleep Alone” both developing into tracks with a thump to their rhythm sections as Khan’s vocal echoes out above them. “Moon And Moon” and “Daniel” each bring contrasting atmospheres to follow them, the former stripping all but piano and vocal, making for a delicate track, while the latter leans into an ’80s vibe, dry drums, synth and all.
It’s the middle third that loses me, however, with a great deal of it devoted to downtempo, swirling instrumentals and wispier vocals. There’s no issue with this in theory, but as one follows another, I find it hard to shake a sense of lethargy that comes with this mid-section of the record. “Pearl’s Dream” does make moves to change this trend, but it isn’t until “Two Planets” that I’m back on board with the proceedings, as tinges of Bjork appear, followed by a similarly downtempo, but the weightier track in “Travelling Woman”. Finally, to close out Two Suns, “The Big Sleep” is an eerie curiosity which reminds me of early, oddball tracks from the likes of Goldfrapp, though with a clear character of its own. The tinny effected piano, the male vocal that warbles into the listener’s right ear and the ominous buzzing tone towards the end all leave me wanting more despite my issues earlier on in the tracklist.
Two Suns leaves me indecisive at the end of its 45 minutes. While much of the tracklist doesn’t feel as though it explores its ideas far enough, its highlights go a long way to make up for it. It’s easy to see why some regard this as Khan’s best work, but it isn’t without its missteps. With some genuinely excellent highlights, I’ll no doubt be returning to parts of this tracklist, but as a whole, it’s less likely to remain in my regular rotation for long.7 10
Favourite tracks // The Big Sleep