By the time Bat for Lashes released Lost Girls, the '80s synth pop revival of the 2000s and 2010s had lasted several years longer than the style's original run. More than 30 years later, the magic, hope, and romance of that decade's pop culture and music -- especially when contrasted with its threatening political climate -- still resonated. The imaginary '80s of the 21st century heightened the era's theatricality into a dream world capable of expressing the grandest feelings and desires of artists like M83 and, on her fifth album, Natasha Khan. Her affinity for the '80s is nothing new; her cover of Bruce Springsteen's 1985 ballad "I'm on Fire" was one of the more revelatory moments from her debut album, Fur and Gold. Still, she's never immersed herself so completely in the sound and feel of those years as she does on Lost Girls, an album title that hints at Khan's own disappearing act. Following 2016's The Bride, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue screenwriting and soundtrack work. The time she spent exploring other fantasy worlds rubs off on Lost Girls: It's one of her most engaging albums in years, and a testament to the magic within her music. Fittingly, it often feels like a collection of themes from a multiplex worth of imagined '80s films.
"Kids in the Dark" (which Khan initially wrote for Hulu's Stephen King anthology series Castle Rock) begins Lost Girls with a swooning love scene; "So Good"'s hooky sexual power games are straight out of an erotic thriller; and "Jasmine" traces the exploits of a femme fatale biker who cloaks her misdeeds in the "June gloom haze." On the more impressionistic tracks, Khan has as much fun reveling in period-accurate musical details -- muted guitars, glowing synths, and rippling Synclaviers abound -- as she does telling her L.A. stories. "Feel for You"'s funky rhythm and laser-beam synths make it a perfect roller-skating jam, while "Vampires"' late-night saxophone and swirling guitars borrowed from the Cure's Disintegration embody the '80s at their cheesiest and most glamorous.
Lost Girls' power only grows on its second half, when Khan leans into the era's unabashed romance. On the gorgeous "Peach Sky," her unrequited yearning basks in an L.A. sunset, and though "Safe Tonight" may be one of the album's most traditionally structured pop songs, it still leaves her plenty of room to cast a tender spell. Khan also blends the strengths of her previous work into Lost Girls' world skillfully. Her union of the mythical, spiritual, and sensual on "Desert Man" evokes Two Suns' searching, only with more distinct imagery tethering its gauzy sounds. When "Mountains" transforms from an archetypal Bat for Lashes piano ballad into a soaring finale, it's clear that Lost Girls is an apt, and winning, culmination of Khan's music. As she celebrates the renewal of disappearing into a new identity or the freedom of getting lost in the moment, her visions feel more vivid, and more real, than they have in some time.