“Come wonder with me, through young girls’ dreams” Natasha Khan, better known by her stage name Bat for Lashes, bids her audience on ‘Widow’s Peak’, the eighth track on her recently released concept effort, ‘The Bride’. The ‘dreams’ we have been invited to reconnoitre with Khan, however, soon reveal themselves to be nightmarish, as the story of a widow, forced to take her honeymoon alone after her fiancé, Joe, is killed in a car crash on the way to their wedding, tragically unfolds. Khan draws from her previous studies of film, visual art and fashion design, and expertly combines the cinematic qualities of earlier efforts, ‘Fur and Gold’ and ‘Two Suns’, with the deep introspection of 2012’s ‘The Haunted Man’. What emerges is a compelling and multifaceted exploration of love, grief and self-discovery, through Khan’s signature medium of hazy, subdued baroque pop.
Opening track ‘I Do’ introduces the infatuated heroine, as she naively anticipates her wedding day over uplifting, glittering harps. Underlying the track, however, is a melancholic tone that persists into the ominous ‘Joe’s Dream’, a forewarning of the impeding loss she is about to experience. Swirling synths disembark over anxious thumping beats on ‘In God’s House’, a heart-breaking, formidable reflection of the Bride’s emotional state as she learns her beloved has died. Seldom is the lyrical sentiment of a song sonically expressed as successfully as this. Khan recently commented that "the trauma and grief from the death of Joe is more of a metaphor, "allowing her a vehicle to investigate the concept of love in general", “which requires a death of sorts.” And that is exactly what the rest of the album’s narrative sets out to achieve.
‘Honeymooning Alone’ delves deep into despair, as the Bride decides to take her honeymoon alone. “Crying now, crying as the stars fail to shine” Khan whimpers over gentle humming, building up to an emotional climax which finds her crying out for the return of her ‘love’. On ‘Sunday Love’, the album’s most recent single, the Bride pines not just for her recently deceased lover, but also for her former self, “I see her in every place I go… I want Sunday love in my heart”. ‘Never Forgive the Angels’ and ‘Close Encounters’ see her begin to accept her lover’s death, and by ‘I Will Love Again’, arguably the record’s finest track, the Bride has begun to find hope in her misery. ‘In Your Bed’ brings the album to a bittersweet, but surprisingly uplifting conclusion; the perfect ending to a tragic journey of self-discovery.
Khan has always been known for immersing herself in the subject matter of her releases, but never has she done it so proficiently and effortlessly as on this record. ‘The Bride’ is a marriage of love and tragedy that emphasizes how hope can be found in even the most hopeless of situations. It is a testament both to Kahn’s ability as a song-writer and her commitment as an artist, and leaves one wondering how she will continue to top herself on future releases.