NATASHA KHAN is waiting to start the first US show on her tour. Her voice is scratchy, she's famished, and sound check is running late, so I feel like a burden to the Bat for Lashes mastermind. Yet she's as gracious as they come, especially for being a haunted woman.
Her newest album, The Haunted Man, is peopled with specters ancestral and romantic, friendly and weighty. They float around Khan's elaborate and hooky synth-pop, poking their heads into her bold, vulnerable songs. They bring a newfound joy, shining brighter than the dark undertones of Bat for Lashes' first two albums.
Khan says, "The last record was super sad and fraught with pain and longing. This one is more about nurturing and acceptance and letting go of old ghosts and trying to move forward in relationships. There's definitely a feeling of waving goodbye to all these transparent memories, putting those ghosts to rest, but also saying, 'I love those ghosts and thank you for everything. I'm not forgetting you, but we have to separate,'" she says.
Album standout "Laura" is a truly haunted piece—a stark piano ballad where Khan strips off the glittery mantle of her past. "It was written about a close friend of mine. It seems to affect people and they have their own story or their own Laura. I think there's a universal theme about the way human beings try to be dazzling and fabulous and beautiful even when they're really hurting on the inside," she says. "Sometimes we want to drink and dance on the tables and escape that feeling."
There's a sense of sheer naked boldness to The Haunted Man. Gone are the ornate album covers of Fur and Gold and Two Suns, replaced with the direct stare of Khan, photographed in black and white, naked save for a live-man shawl draped over her shoulders. It's a powerful image for an album full of openness and release. Khan says it best: "Sometimes the real person and their vulnerability is really beautiful, and it doesn't have to be sparkly and perfect." She should know.