Fairy tales, especially love stories, typically involve conflicts neatly overcome by the end. But what happens when the fairy-tale ending you expect turns out to be a disastrous beginning? Natasha Khan’s fourth Bat for Lashes album is her most mature and cohesive yet: a concept album about a bride losing her groom in a car crash on their wedding day, and the grieving, reconstruction and self-discovery that demands. Khan hopes to use it as the soundtrack to a film, and its subversive story is boldly cinematic.
I Do sets a precarious mood. The bride, softly over glittering harp, is convinced her groom will “ask me if I do, and all of the sorrow will drop away.” But the dark reverb of Joe’s Dream predicts what’s to come, and In God’s House’s swirling, vexing synths arrive just ahead of the bride’s realization that her betrothed is dead. A grieving period follows: despair (Honeymooning Alone), loss of control (Sunday Love) and anger (Never Forgive The Angels). Like the best films, each song masterfully evokes those feelings using the nuances of the medium.
Unlike most films, the most compelling moments aren’t the heights of conflicts, but the reflective denouement and her emotional breakthrough. The final three-song suite begins with stunning, piano-driven standout If I Knew – a meditation on emerging stronger at the other end of a tragedy – and ends with the heavenly, atmospheric In Your Bed. It’s a fairy-tale ending, after all: the bride knows herself better than before, despite the fresh scars.
Top track: If I Knew