Another album, another concept. When I read about the “80s vampire movie” idea ahead of the release of Lost Girls, I was understandably wary. Previous album, The Bride, despite being probably the most fully realised of all her concepts, was not her strongest musically.
She’s also got a high standard to maintain. Three of her four previous albums were Mercury nominated. We had already been treated to and teased by the Jasmine EP. Were the best tracks carelessly and needlessly tossed out too soon?
There is a lot at (wooden) stake here (sorry).
I needn’t have worried.
PB boss man Fran has already proclaimed ‘the album of the year’ on a number of occasions, so let me follow by throwing Bat’s hat into the ring too. I have not been as excited or obsessed about any album this year as much as this.
‘Lost Girls’ apparently came about as part of a film making process – it was destined to be the soundtrack. I admit when it comes to films I’m pretty hard to please, but judging by BFL’s self-directed videos for ‘The Hunger’ and ‘Kids in the Dark’, I’m very pleased we’ve ended up with Lost Girls the album and not Lost Girls the movie. We’re fortunate that she’s stuck to what she does best. And ‘Kids in the Dark’ is a wonderful opener, reassuring us with the brilliant BFL synth pop we already know and love whilst setting the scene for the rest of the album. Later, subtly catchy ‘Desert Man’ brings the same reassurance after some more unusual songs which I’ll come on to in more detail.
This is not to say that the film project has been a failure – the most successful elements shine through in this album. It’s sonically very cinematic throughout and has absolutely realised its (whatever the musical equivalent is of) aesthetic.
You could argue that the approach of making something look and sound like a specific era is risky. How do you create something that is entirely indebted to its chosen influences yet still be original and not derivative (does anyone want to sound exactly like Peter Gabriel anyway?). BFL skirts closest to this line, appositely, on instrumental ‘Vampires’. It begins by absolutely nailing, appositely, The Cure’s guitar and bass sound, before a sultry Careless Whisper-espue sax solo appears from nowhere. It is at once ludicrous and loveable. I’ve long been an advocate of the return of the once ubiquitous saxophone to pop music and very much enjoyed its appearance here.
I don’t think risky is the first word that springs to mind when you think of BFL. Perhaps ‘experimental’ or plain old ‘creative’ would be better. This theme continues in ‘Feel for you’ which totals seven words in its lyrics, two of which are repeated. Once more on paper it doesn’t sound great but once more she pulls it off with style.
Another vamp moment comes with ‘So Good’ where the time honoured theme of love hurts is explored expertly in the lyrics. It works if you’re human and you fall out with your lover, or vampire and you inevitably kill your lover (I sense a storyline). ‘The Hunger’ too works on both these levels. It has to be not only one of the songs of the year so far but also one of BFL’s all time best.
‘Jasmine’ is the next in BFL’s established tradition of ‘first name’ songs (see ‘Daniel’, ‘Priscilla’, ‘Laura’ etc.) and slowly grows on you to become as good as its predecessors.
Bat for Lashes seems a lot more in love on Lost Girls which is a welcome contrast to the sadness of The Bride. And it can only be a good thing if this is the result. Three out of five Mercury nominations (so far) still ain’t bad. Could 2020 be the year she finally wins?
Words by James Spearing.