In the week that IT Chapter Two was released in UK Cinemas, a remake of a horror classic and an adaptation of an 80s Stephen King novel, Natasha Khan takes us further back to the charming idiosyncrasies of that decade by way of its colourful and glistening cinematic soundtracks in the homage-coated, romantic and sparkling new record Lost Girls – her fifth album under the moniker of Bat For Lashes.
In the break between releasing her last record in 2016, the brilliantly-tragic marriage fable The Bride, Natasha Khan moved to Los Angeles with the goal of starting a future film-making career. However, the journey instead made the Brit sentimentally look to the past at her love of 80s films, in particular that era’s horror cinema – hence the new album title’s wordplay on the Vampire coming-of-age film Lost Boys – due to the magic and dark romanticism of L.A’s scenery. From the city’s sunsets, to its pine trees and abandoned theme parks, the city as well as her cinematic nostalgia inspired Natasha to write her own story called Lost Girls. A romantic-horror centered around a character called Nikki Pink, a hopeless romantic that’s haunted by a gang of female bikers who possess the advantageous attributes of vampires and witches.
Bat for Lashes’s new record Lost Girls begins with the dreamy ‘Kids In The Dark’ – a song originally composed for a new Stephen King anthology TV series called Castle Rock – in which our protagonist Nikki Pink yearns for the starry-eyed simplicity of teenage romances. “Lying next to you. We could be on the moon. Tell me you’re not leaving”. Natasha said in interviews that the Lost Girls title also references the mentality of the lost boys from J.M Barrie’s Peter Pan in which characters refuse to grow up, and ‘Kids In The Dark’ has that blissful ignorance in its lyrics and music. Yet Nikki Pink knows that it can’t last forever, especially as her safety is being threatening by those aforementioned stubborn vampires.
It appears she has been caught in the next chapter ‘The Hunger’ . It begins with an eerie wind fade that sounds like the kind of effect David Lynch would use to symbolise that a menacing spirit is on the prowl about to descend on its prey, before turning into the Miami Vice theme if performed by a collective of occults, due to its collaboration of ecclesiastical organ and drum machine. It seems at this point that Nikki Pink has partially transitioned into a supernatural creature that’s conflicted between staying with her human lover and flying off into the unknown with her new witch buddies. “I want to feel. Like I’m still alive. I want to bleed. And feed us forever. But I want to feed. The hunger inside.” ‘Safe Tonight’ also highlights her romantic predicament, but by this point she has transformed so much into another creature, it sounds like a Twilight/Let The Right One In scenario: “Lying in the dark and I am out of time. There’s a demon in my heart that I’m not sure we’ll survive.”
These songs show that Natasha Khan can still write captivating and effective character-driven lyrics. and yet rather ironically she writes the song ‘Feel For You’ – a track that contains just seven repeated words and has a prime goal of absorbing its listener into an exciting 80s pop fantasia. It contains a funky loop that sparks the same energetic motivation as Survivor’s ‘Eye Of The Tiger’. The mid-album instrumental ‘Vampires’ is also drenched in the same nostalgia by bringing back the unmistakable playing style of saxophones within 80s theme music – it’s reminiscent of the way M83 paid respect to TV soundtracks in his 2016 album Junk.
‘Jasmine’ will be one of the most rewarding tracks for long term followers of Bat For Lashes on Lost Girls, as not only does it fit the overall vibe of the album musically with its gleaming synths and knocking drum machines but importantly it features one of Natasha Khan’s old traits; her alluring spoken word segments, something featured in past tracks such as ‘Sarah’ from debut Fur and Gold. There is also the geeky fact that it’s another BFL track entitled with a woman’s name, along with ‘Prescilla,’ Laura’, ‘Marilyn’ et al . Lyrically it’s also a key part of the Lost Girls’ story, as Jasmine is one of the cold-blooded vampires of the aforementioned dangerous gang whom goes around killing men at night, draining their blood and burying their bodies. A real femme fatale of Los Angeles is presented with the lyrics: “Don’t be seduced by those baby blues. That secret smile when it’s catching you. ‘Cause little girl cracks your heart in two. Sucks the juice till she turns you loose.”
Lost Girls isn’t a perfect record, as the last three tracks: the too-sugary ‘Safe Tonight’, the grating ‘Peach Sky’ (it has a rather uncomfortable frequency effect) and the ballad ‘Mountains’ don’t offer much musically to the record. Nonetheless, the new album is a giddy throwback for those who grew up in the 80s decade and proves that once again Natasha Khan is a genius at creating concept albums with unparalleled storytelling.