Bat for Lashes

Fur and Gold

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With Fur & Gold, Bat for Lashes -- aka Natasha Khan -- brings a fairytale quality and air of mystery to her music, performing a delicate balancing act between everyday emotions and the power of fantasy. As the title suggests, there's something gorgeous but raw about her songs, which fly from spare British chamber folk to shades of lavish rock, pop, and dance as she throws herself into stories that update the traditions of other iconic female artists. She's a warrior princess of the moors with only her steed to keep her company on "Horse and I," a song whose dramatic sweep would do Kate Bush proud; on the fable-like sensual duet "Trophy," Khan sings "creatures of mercy/shoot them down and set me free" with Björk-like urgency. Despite Fur & Gold's unabashedly mystical vibe, Khan emphasizes the reality in her magical reality, whether she makes it sound like it's perfectly natural to sing "drink his blood and he's our leader" on "The Wizard," or crafts strong heroines on songs such as "Prescilla"'s urban folk or "Sarah"'s surprising rock. The most remarkable thing -- out of a lot of remarkable things -- about Fur & Gold is the emotional power of Khan's songs. "What's a Girl to Do?" might be decorated with beautifully ghostly girl group beats and harmonies, but the pain of falling out of love is palpable. Best of all is "Sad Eyes," a love song so warm and fragile that the way it cuts to the quick when Khan sings "trying to keep it together/keep my love as light as a feather" is breathtaking. As far flung as these songs can be, they never sound scattered, and only rarely overdone: the thunderstorm-laden ballad "I Saw a Light" is the only moment that feels close to over the top. Fortunately, the final track, a soaring cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire" that shows off Khan's vulnerable, old soul voice to its finest, more than compensates. This is a vivid, accomplished, transporting debut.

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