The Haunted Man (album)

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The Haunted Man
Studio album by Bat for Lashes
Released 11 October 2012 (2012-10-11)
Recorded 2010–12; Abbey Road Studios, London
Genre Indie pop, dream pop, baroque pop, folktronica, synthpop, art rock
Length 51:28
Label Echo, Parlophone
Producer Dan Carey, Rob Ellis, Natasha Khan, David Kosten
Bat for Lashes chronology
Two Suns
(2009)
The Haunted Man
(2012)
Singles from The Haunted Man
  1. "Laura"
    Released: 24 July 2012
  2. "All Your Gold"
    Released: 19 September 2012
  3. "A Wall"
    Released: 15 February 2013
  4. "Lilies"
    Released: 15 April 2013

The Haunted Man is the third studio album by English recording artist Bat for Lashes. It was released on 11 October 2012 by Parlophone. The album was preceded by the lead single "Laura", which was released on 24 July 2012.

Background[edit]

Bat for Lashes, otherwise known as Natasha Khan, stated that, after she returned from touring in March 2010, she tried to rehabilitate herself to rebuild a sense of who she was without the music.[1] In May 2010, Khan stated that although she had enough songs to put out as an album, she wanted to take more time working on new material as she had been on tour for so long and found it boring to write songs about being on tour.[2] She experienced a "profound writer's block", which led her to call Thom Yorke, lead singer of Radiohead, to ask, "What do you do when you feel like you're going to die because you can't write anything?"[1] He advised her to draw, and subsequently Khan took life-drawing classes and a children's illustration course. Combined with intensive dance classes to boost her confidence, Khan began to feel inspiration enough to begin writing again, penning the album's opening song, "Lilies", which she said was inspired by a scene in the 1970 film Ryan's Daughter.[1]

The album's artwork was photographed by American photographer Ryan McGinley,[3] and features a nude Khan carrying an equally naked man on her back.[4] Khan told the NME: "I really wanted to strip things back in honour of women like Patti Smith; just these raw, honest women. I had no make-up on, it's just me and my haunted man!"[3]

Singles[edit]

"Laura" was released as the album's lead single on 24 July 2012.[5] The song reached number 144 on the UK Singles Chart.[6] The track "Marilyn" debuted online on 13 September 2012.[7] "All Your Gold" was released as the second single from the album on 19 September 2012,[8] and was serviced to US triple-A radio stations on 22 October.[9]

Reception[edit]

Critical response[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 78/100[10]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars[11]
The A.V. Club B−[12]
The Guardian 4/5 stars[13]
The Independent 3/5 stars[14]
NME 8/10[15]
Now 4/5[16]
The Observer 3/5 stars[17]
Pitchfork Media 8.4/10[18]
Rolling Stone 3.5/5 stars[19]
Slant Magazine 3.5/5 stars[20]

The Haunted Man received positive reviews from most music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalised rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 78, based on 35 reviews, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[10] Pitchfork Media's Marc Hogan named The Haunted Man "one of the year's most beguiling albums", writing that it "sounds like effort magnificently realized. The rawness of feeling is achieved through equally raw ambition."[18] Under the Radar '​s Austin Trunick opined, "Stripped down of any excessive ornamentation, it's the most raw incarnation of Bat For Lashes we've heard yet [...] From the beginning, it's the passion in her vocals that drives the record, seemingly less concerned this time around with crafting the atmospheric dreamworlds of her past work and more in finding some emotional truth in the simple compositions."[21] Anupa Mistry of Now described the album as "yearning, elegant pop music in line with the past year's best: patterned and dreamy like Jessie Ware's Devotion, unrepentant like Fiona Apple's The Idler Wheel and as beguilingly honest as St. Vincent's Strange Mercy."[16] Ben Hewitt of the NME commented that "while The Haunted Man deals in less trinkets than its predecessor, it's not scant in splendour. Instead, for large swathes, it's like being plunged into a fairytale soundtracked by skin-prickling electro and populated by downtrodden sods hunting for breadcrumbs of comfort."[15] Rolling Stone '​s Will Hermes praised the album as Khan's "sexiest, spookiest LP", stating that "the visions here seem all her own. And they're pretty awesome."[19]

The Guardian critic Alexis Petridis wrote that The Haunted Man "sounds like a bold, confident album that strips away a lot of the sonic embellishments from Khan's sound", adding that "[p]erhaps it's the sound of someone who's worked out that less can sometimes be more, that not trying too hard isn't the same as not trying."[13] Heather Phares of Allmusic stated, "Focus and restraint might not sound exciting in and of themselves, but The Haunted Man is more direct than any of Bat for Lashes' previous work, and manages to keep the air of mystique around Khan that has made her one to watch and listen to since her early days."[11] Slant Magazine's Kevin Liedel viewed that "while the album's comparatively restrained arrangements occasionally wilt in the face of Khan's fierce melodrama, The Haunted Man is still a worthy, often gorgeous entry in the Bat for Lashes canon."[20] In a mixed review, Annie Zaleski of The A.V. Club critiqued that Khan's "moody charisma and piercing vocals ensure the album is still an enjoyable listen. All the same, it's disappointing that The Haunted Man '​s beauty is too often only skin deep."[12] Despite citing The Haunted Man as "Khan's strongest yet", The Observer '​s Kitty Empire felt that the album "does not [...] deal the killer blow of originality that by now Khan should have in her power", concluding that "The Haunted Man is an assured and sonically seductive record—if only it didn't echo a little too often the sound of other women's work."[17] Andy Gill of The Independent argued that "[t]here are moments on The Haunted Man when Natasha Khan's carefully-marshalled musical forces evoke exactly the right ambience for songs pivoting on the notion of renewal. But sometimes the recurrent mood of ecstatic affirmation of life that's evident in her singing can be short-changed by arrangements that fuss to no great purpose, dissipating their impact in brittle beats and pointless detail."[14] Neil McCormick of The Daily Telegraph expressed that although the album "occasionally draw[s] blood", it "doesn't live up to its stripped and dangerous cover", adding, "For every song that opens up and invites you in to experience the startling wonders of [Khan's] private world, there's another that just hangs like a gauzy veil of unusual sounds and vague lyrics, not so much impenetrable as too insubstantial to be worth the effort of investigation."[22]

Commercial performance[edit]

The Haunted Man debuted at number six on the UK Albums Chart, selling 13,334 copies.[23] The following week, it fell to number thirty-six on sales of 3,991 copies.[24] The album entered the Billboard 200 at number sixty-four, becoming Khan's highest-charting album so far in the United States.[25]

Accolades[edit]

The album was listed at number six on Spin '​s 50 Best Albums of 2012, and the magazine wrote, "[W]hen the often-fantastical, mythology-loving [...] Bat for Lashes dropped a testament to her strength—an open, plaintive meditation on courage, self-esteem, and coming into one's own that also pushed her opulent, operatic sound forward—it was cultural reinforcement that self-sacrifice needn't be a part of the female pop-star narrative."[26] This Is Fake DIY named The Haunted Man the tenth best album of 2012, stating it "shines as an exemplary beacon of what can be achieved within the mainstream, given great ambition and artistic integrity."[27] Pitchfork Media placed the album at number seventeen on its list of The Top 50 Albums of 2012, calling it "empathetic, bold, and outlandish".[28] The Haunted Man was ranked the twenty-first and thirty-second best album of 2012 by The Guardian and the NME, respectively.[29][30]

PopMatters included the album at number thirty-three on its list of The 75 Best Albums of 2012 and noted that it "lays off the thick orchestration to reveal even more rhythmic complexity than usual", while citing it as Khan's "richest release".[31] It was named the fortieth best album of 2012 by Fact magazine, which opined that Khan's "mimicry of Kate Bush outpaces her contemporaries (ahem, Florence) and sonically, the influence of austere, icy post-punk is a welcome development. The Haunted Man is not perfect, but with standouts like 'Laura' and 'Lilies', it's a well-composed pop album."[32] Allmusic ranked The Haunted Man as the forty-fourth best album of 2012 and commented it contains "some of [Khan's] most striking and vital-sounding songs yet", concluding, "Balancing the primal beauty of her first album and the elaborate character studies of her second, she moved between sparkling synth pop and spare piano balladry with a dreamlike ease that reaffirmed her as one of pop's most captivating figures since Kate Bush's heyday."[33]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Natasha Khan, except where noted. 

No. Title Producer(s) Length
1. "Lilies"   Khan, David Kosten 4:45
2. "All Your Gold"   Khan, Dan Carey, Kosten (add.) 4:31
3. "Horses of the Sun"   Khan, Kosten 4:59
4. "Oh Yeah"   Khan, Carey, Kosten (add.), Rob Ellis (add.) 4:54
5. "Laura" (Khan, Justin Parker) Khan, Carey, Kosten (add.) 4:25
6. "Winter Fields"   Khan, Kosten 3:41
7. "The Haunted Man"   Khan, Kosten 5:16
8. "Marilyn"   Khan, Carey, Kosten 4:35
9. "A Wall"   Khan, Carey, Kosten 4:00
10. "Rest Your Head"   Khan, Carey, Kosten (add.) 4:03
11. "Deep Sea Diver"   Khan, Carey, Kosten (add.) 6:19

Personnel[edit]

Credits for The Haunted Man adapted from liner notes.[35]

Charts[edit]

Chart (2012–13) Peak
position
Australian Albums Chart[36] 21
Belgian Albums Chart (Flanders)[37] 12
Belgian Albums Chart (Wallonia)[38] 21
Dutch Albums Chart[39] 81
Finnish Albums Chart[40] 18
French Albums Chart[41] 31
German Albums Chart[42] 72
Irish Albums Chart[43] 7
Italian Albums Chart[44] 74
New Zealand Albums Chart[45] 32
Portuguese Albums Chart[46] 24
Scottish Albums Chart[47] 8
Swedish Albums Chart[48] 53
Swiss Albums Chart[49] 29
UK Albums Chart[50] 6
US Billboard 200[51] 64
US Alternative Albums[52] 13
US Rock Albums[53] 21

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label
Netherlands[54] 11 October 2012 EMI
Australia[55] 12 October 2012
Germany[56]
Ireland[57] Parlophone
United Kingdom[58] 15 October 2012
France[59] EMI
Italy[60] 16 October 2012
Finland[61] 19 October 2012
United States[62] 23 October 2012 Capitol Records
Poland[63] 29 October 2012 EMI

References[edit]

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