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From Robert Christgau’s review of Bat for Lashes’ Two Suns:

“The opening ‘Glass’ does indeed deploy what a Pitchfork raver designates a ‘strange mix of elements (chamber pop, prog metal, new age—what?) magically coalesced into some entirely new genre that I wish existed and yet still can’t quite wrap my brain around.’  If you suspect, correctly, that this so-called genre is unworthy of your brainlength, Natasha Khan will make you cringe… Grounded or ethereal, Khan has the kind of pretty, proper British accent that young men find fetching when linked to ill-informed mentions of goodbye beds and licking her clean.  She has hitched her modest talent to an art-rock wagon she won’t outpace anytime soon.”

When I first read Christgau’s review the other day, it stung in the way that all good, nasty criticism should: it made me feel like a cliché.  Yes, I’ve been listening to Two Suns pretty regularly since reading about it on Pitchfork last month.  Yes, I think Natasha Khan is kind of hot.  And damn you for calling me on it, Bob.

But, hurt pride and all, I haven’t stopped listening to Two Suns, even though I more or less agree with everything Christgau wrote.  His central complaint, that Khan is “an etherhead, as ill-informed about astronomy as she is about love,” is spot-on, something I’ve been trying to articulate without success since first YouTube-ing lead single “Daniel” back in April.  Her lyrics are almost uniformly awful, vague meditations on the moon and wickedness and heaven that could have been ripped straight from the pages of your average middle school lit mag.  Sometimes, when the surrounding music is weak, the half-baked words crash and burn, taking tracks like “Moon and Moon” and “Peace of Mind” with them as collateral damage.  But more often, and Christgau shortchanges this in his review, the words cease to matter, fading in the imposing shadow of Khan’s frequently brilliant aural instincts.  The lyric booklet makes Two Suns sound like a train wreck.  With music, it’s still a bumpy ride, but one worth taking for the sake of its few fleeting holy-fuck-that’s-good moments.

“Sleep Alone,” the album’s second track, is a good example of this.  Opening with a lonely syncopated twang, Khan methodically adds layer upon layer of unexpected instrumentation (Synths?  Hand-claps?  Backing choir?  Seriously?) and builds her song into a textbook case of art-rock awesomeness: it’s so profoundly un-groovy that it flies straight through grim indie rock no-man’s-land and ends up pretty close to funky.  You want to dance because you have no idea what the fuck else to do.

So I’m not ready to concede this one to Christgau, although I will admit that the album is fading.  When I first heard it, it seemed like a solid 9.  Now, on a good day, it’s a 7.5.  But a 7.5 with moments of 10.0 is a 7.5 worth paying attention to.  Plus, she’s hot.

P.S. Christgau’s review name-drops Joanna Newsom, which led me to this thing of beauty.  An excerpt: “Original is one thing, worth doing another—and if only indie ideologues knew the difference.”  Word.  You’re officially my favorite cranky old man.

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Written by Tim

May 14, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Music

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