I had not heard of Bat For Lashes prior to being given this album to review, and I will say now that I am not entirely convinced about the merits of the album, but by gad, can the lady belt out a note or two.
So, straight into the first track, "I Do". A nice, gentle harp intro, slow, steady, gentle and loving. A good demonstration of her vocal style too, it eases you into the album. This leads to "Joe's Dream", an altogether different sound, still slow, but with a nice heartbeat that paces the track nicely, the lyrics swaying over the beat. The singing style is lovely, reminding me of Clannad at their early eighties best. Clean and direct, this is a powerful, melancholy track.
"In God's House" is a totally opposite beast to the first two tracks, dirty electronica, an almost Halo-ish sci-fi vibe in execution. It does swing to a lighter tone after a minute or so, rising in tone before a heavy drop that again, brings the comparison to Clannad. The combination of lyrics, singing style (that end note is piercing) and the contrasting tones make this, for me, the best track on the album.
"Honeymooning Alone" begins with a car crash, literally. It then drops into a very atmospheric, stutteringly slow beat. This is another melancholy sounding track, with highlights when the chorus kicks in, before heading back to the sadness. It's a very good, haunting track, one that continues the quality of "In God's House".
"Sunday Love" is another electronic track, sharp and fast. It is more of an uplifting song, it has an urgency that plays well.
"Never Forgive the Angels" is a slow, guitar led piece. There is once again that contract between consecutive tracks. This one does build though, becoming more forceful as the track progresses before slowly fading out at the end. Emotive is an apt description.
Next track, "Close Encounters" could also come from the Halo stable of soundtracks, sad strings and haunting lyrics sang beautifully. It is a memorable lament that at times sent shivers down my back. Brilliant.
"Widow's Peak" starts with a lovely western vibe, guitar work mixed with chimes, the vocals spoken rather than sang. I can see what effect is being aimed for, and it mostly works, up to about the point where the rain and thunder kick in. Then it loses its way, and I am not entirely sure why. Maybe it seems overly long for the style (the track is close to four minutes). Maybe this would be best suited with an accompanying video, a calming moment half way through a set. Hmmm, I don't know, but it's close to being very good but sadly not.
"Land's End" opens with some nice string work, the vocals slow, the backing simple and clean. It does follow on well from "Widow's Peak". A pleasing track on the whole.
"If I Knew" is another slow one, the quality of the singing lifting it out of generic blandness. Only at the end where the high notes are aimed for does the pitch get a little too annoying. I shall come back to this is a bit.
"I Will Love Again" takes us back to electronic territory again, the beat strong and firm. This is a long track, over five minutes, and it takes its own sweet time to get going. It's not a bad track by any means, but to me, it is overly long.
"In Your Bed" is another of the tremendous tracks on the album, you just have to listen to it. A love song, seemingly sad but actually uplifting and it made me smile when I listened to it the first time.
"Clouds" is another long track, and I am beginning to feel that the album is veering from very good to self-indulgent twaddle, this track being a very good example of the latter. It doesn't go anywhere and feels like a wasted opportunity. The pitch is also all over the place, so yes, she can sing, but no, she does not need to show off like this.
This was a strange one to rate. There are some absolute belting tracks here, including my favourite, "In God's House", but at the same time, there are tracks that just meander about for no purpose. It's disappointing as otherwise, this would be at least an 8. Instead, I am giving this a 6.
Favourite Track: "In God's House"