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Album Review

Shining promise dims in 'Two Suns'

April 13, 2009
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Indie Pop
Bat for Lashes Two Suns
Parlophone
ESSENTIAL "Glass"
Bat for Lashes plays at the Paradise Rock Club on April 27.

When "What's a Girl to Do," the breakout single from Bat for Lashes, a.k.a. Natasha Khan, was first released, its harpsichord creep and haunting vocals hinted at an artist with style and sleek swagger to spare. The UK press soon took notice, nominating the record for the prestigious Mercury Prize. It was such a startling stab of casual enchantment it felt almost otherworldly.

It's almost hard to believe, then, that this follow-up record is so boring. Much of Khan's blueprint remains intact - tracks like "Glass" are full of foggy synth washes, minimalist percussion, and dramatic piano sweeps - but there's nothing remotely approaching that initial promise.

The relative lack of drums throughout may be tempering the mood. No question this is meant to be a haunting mood piece, and her gorgeous voice - somewhere between Björk and Tori Amos, to name the obvious referents - makes up in some part for what's lacking in dynamics and compelling hooks. When the beat kicks up on "Pearls Dream," underlying a squiggly bass synth and Khan's multitracked vocals, things pick up.

Still, atmospheric music like this is supposed to lull you into a dreamy haze, not put you to sleep. LUKE O'NEIL