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For all its dark and mysterious overtones, Natasha Khan's music lets rays of hope and joy leak out of every shadow. From the first song on The Haunted Man — in which the artful English pop singer, who performs under the name Bat for Lashes, exclaims, "Thank God I'm alive!" — Khan infuses her songs with grace and grandeur. Still, for all her music's soaring qualities, she spends her new album marinating in the realities of love, want and loss. Listen to the sinister, slinky "All Your Gold," about a woman who weighs the costs and benefits of marrying a man who doesn't excite her, and you'll hear a singer who knows when to douse her Technicolor canvas with shades of gray.
Bat for Lashes' third album and first since 2009's Two Suns, The Haunted Man doesn't soar to the peaks of its predecessor: It's not as infectious as "Daniel," as sumptuously pretty as "Moon and Moon," or as worldly (and otherworldly) as Khan's past work on the whole. But it's got moments that sparkle, arrangements that deftly employ worldly beats and whirring electronics, and an affecting single in "Laura," which paints a piano-driven portrait of Hollywood tragedy. Comparisons to Khan's musical predecessors are, as always, inevitable — her voice bears heavy traces of Tori Amos, Siouxsie Sioux, Portishead's Beth Gibbons and especially Kate Bush — but at least her taste is impeccable. Don't be surprised if Bat for Lashes joins their ranks among the inspirations of tomorrow.