Bat for Lashes’ New Concept Album Explores Themes of Love and Loss
Bat for Lashes’ 2016 studio album “The Bride” is mastermind Natalie Khan’s strongest and deepest concept production yet. Although past records have loose structuring throughout, such as an alter ego persona in “Two Suns,” none have stuck so closely to a story line as “The Bride.” Each Bat for Lashes album cover conveys Khan as a character. On her fourth, she plays a distraught, overly eyeshadowed bride, staring longingly at the sky.
The first track, “I Do,” opens with an enchanting harp and depicts the first and last moments of happiness and hope for a young bride. Khan has said the protagonist, who is based on a short film sharing the same name, is “disturbed by subterranean weird feelings, messages, and signs” throughout the record and is seemingly guided by the five stages of grief.
Dark imagery and denial are guided by brooding but undermined guitars in “Joe’s Dream,” in which the bride envisions her future husband’s imminent death. “In God’s House” wakes listeners from this nightmare into reality, where the bride waits at the steeple for her lover. Hypnotizing synthesizers and booming drums put listeners in the bride’s mind, which is filled with confusion and anger. These intense emotions are further emphasized by the high-pitch, extended wail of “fire,” leading listeners from the church into the groom’s accident.
The crashing of metal and the squealing of tires starting off “Honeymooning Alone” affirms the bride’s worst fears, followed by a bout of depression in the wake of her broken bridal bliss. According to Khan, this honeymoon for one results “in a dark meditation on love, loss, grief, and celebration.”
Subdued and transient tracks convey this journey well. “Sunday Love” begins with the bride bargaining with grief and filling a void with a night out on the town. She is “numb and shining in the face of strangers in the city lights,” even though she is falling apart on the inside. Nightmares still come and go, according to “Never Forgive the Angels,” proving the bride has a long journey ahead of her and about half a record’s worth of agony to combat.
“Close Encounters” opens with the mention of a green light that encompasses the bride’s lover, which could reflect the emerald glow behind Khan on the album’s cover. Following this track, the record delivers some underwhelming songs, not nearly as dynamic and narrative as those at the start. Soft instruments, from lightly tapped pianos to softly strummed guitars, guide listeners through a drawn-out and anticlimactic thought process. Even the crucial acceptance in “I Will Love Again” is stretched out several minutes longer than is needed.
“Widow’s Peak” is an interesting break from this boring string of songs, serving as a sonic hallucination that pulls our bride back on track, helping her heal and learn to love again. This might have been an interesting ending to the record, but listeners are reassured the bride finds love again with “In Your Bed,” before being left with the necessary recognition of an unfillable void in “Clouds.”