From the get-go, Bat for Lashes aka Natasha Khan is grabbing for the brass ring on The Haunted Man
, declaring "thank God I'm alive" on opener "Lillies." Though she still incorporates the inward-looking, intimate goth-tinged singer-songwriter sound of her first album and part of her second, on this third album she engages in embracing pop in a way she never has, save for on her breakthrough single, “Daniel.” “All Your Gold” is the kind of shivery, evocative pop that Kate Bush pioneered in the ’80s and which has netted a bevy of recent followers (from Florence + The Machine to Beach House), but Khan does it better than most of the pack for her impeccable use of unforced detail. As on her first single, “What’s a Girl to Do,” she sings of lacking affection for someone, this time because of past injury — “today I was a dead girl walking,” she sings creepily amid stuttering guitar and a heavy dance beat that sweeps you off your feet. Similarly, the stunning “Laura” details a fading beauty or diva with beautiful tragicomedy — “you’ll be famous for longer than them, your name is tattooed on every boy’s skin.” The song’s subject remains ever elusive, yet you feel for her out of the burning intensity in Khan’s voice. Khan shows a knack for memorable choruses across The Haunted Man
, even as she can sound distant and lost, creating an intriguing push-and-pull, from “Laura’s” “you’re more than a superstar” to “Marilyn’s” grand pop moment of “turnin’ into a Marilyn, leaning out of your big car” amid that song’s slow-motion synth-and-drum-machine fireworks. Because of the album’s immaculate pacing, where these high points are broken up by headier moments, like the warbling “Oh Yeah” and orchestral flourishes of “Winter Fields,” that you come back to once some of the glory of the album’s singles wears off. Its altogether one of the most rapturous and addictive listening experiences of recent memory, surely one of the year’s best.