Natasha Khan's third record as Bat for Lashes is at once heartachingly emotional and coldly distant. It's a strange talent of hers, balancing delicately between sounding earnest and detached with a combination of shiny, synthy instrumentals, meaningful lyrics and an emotional rawness in her voice that cuts through the reverb.
It's not the explicit emotional throwdown of someone like Adele. There's no straightforward declaration of how Khan's feeling, but the feelings are undeniably there. The Haunted Man wanders purposefully from grandiose electronic orchestrations to pop hooks to reserved ballads. The title track is pulling on all of those things and features a snare drum marching rhythm and solemn male chorus that feels like the build up to a movie execution.
“All Your Gold” jumps out for its plucky bass line and crunchy little bursts of guitar. Its heartbroken lyrics (“And now for you, I have nothing left.”) and movement between sparse plinking and a fuller chorus will is reminiscent of Gotye's “Somebody That I Used To Know” without feeling like a ripoff. “Laura” offers a nice, stripped-down moment of almost only vocals and somber piano, with just the lightest embellishments from horns and strings (that French horn, oh my).
It can occasionally feel overwrought, but the carefulness with which Khan balances every sound and every emotion make up for it. Just when synths and drum machines feel like they're headed into overdrive, she yanks back on the reigns for something reserved but equally moving.
The last song, “Deep Sea Diver,” drives point of the record home. For all the cold beauty and slick production, it feels naked. She saved a mission statement for the end: “This time I'm not afraid, ‘cause my heart's ablaze.”