The Two Suns of “Daniel” | A Deep Dive Into One of Bat for Lashes Most Popular Tracks
A while back I did a review of Bat for Lashes second album Two Suns and thoroughly enjoyed its mystical pop driven landscape. The stand out track on the record has to be the first single “Daniel”. The song opens with these mystical synths and percussion that lets you know something grandiose is coming. The mix of 80s-esque synths, dancey drums, and slightly delayed vocals take this etherial tone into a colorful pop explosion. We’re immediately hit with the name of man that has both captured and broken Natasha’s heart, Daniel. Coming from this, we get the immediate infatuation she has for him, “Daniel when I first saw you/ I knew that you had a flame in your heart/ And under our blue skies/ Marble movie skies/ I found a home in your eyes/ We’ll never be apart”. The song takes an instrumental break to buffer you into the beginnings of the end of the relationship. Khan’s building background vocals of “uhh… uhh… uhh” acting like ellipses to the next part of their relationship. Here, the signs of disaster build around them as they scoff at this devolving background, “And when the fires came/ The smell of cinders and rain/ Perfumed almost everything/ We laughed and laughed and laughed”. This disastrous tones are only a harbinger of the end as these overlooked red flags act to send her spiraling downwards from this heaven she was in, “And in the golden blue/ Crying took me to the darkest place/ And you have set fire to my heart”. The chorus acts has this almost naive hope to return to this once perfect place they were once in together, “When I run in the dark, Daniel/ To a place that’s vast, Daniel/ Under a sheet of rain in my heart/ Daniel, I dream of home”. The echoing of his name, Daniel, almost like a haunting reminder of both this admiration and scorn she has around the essence of him. What’s left of this love has turned to bleak has she holds desperately what little foundation they have left in the storm of their demise, “But in a goodbye bed/ With my arms around your neck/ Into our love the tears crept/ Just catch in the eye of the storm”. I can definitely hear the influence artists like Kate Bush had on Khan with detailed world she’s formed through this track. It’s also no wonder that this album was nominated for a Mercury Prize and Brit Award. This song deserves to be experienced by all.
Aside from the album version, two other fantastic versions have been released on the special edition of the album. The first of these is the much more bare “lo-fi” take. Compared to the fuller, more electronically driven album version, this gives off a much more earthy/transcendental feel. The percussion comes claps and simple beats that feel very organic like a group of people have gathered around to build the foundation of this song. The main instrumentation comes from Natasha’s synth bass and occasional atmospheric synth strings in the chorus along with Ben Christophers’s harmonium and a marxophone. These all come together to make the story feel much more intimate and otherworldly. Gone is the echoing of “Daniel” from the song’s chorus, which makes the song feel much more personal towards Khan’s journey from the joy to sorrow. It also makes the character’s arc in the chorus feel much more aching as she grasps to find any sort of safety has the pelting rains of loss lick at her naked form. I love the different flavor this take gives the track. It’s tribal/witchy nature gives the song a much more epic feeling.
The second version is taken live from Radiohead Tour Nimes. The band really marries the some of the best parts of the album version with that of the lo-fi take. The percussion here is much more tribal. One of my favorite things from live performances during this era is Natasha’s willingness to add various stringed instruments to the mix. The inclusion of the marxophone and autoharp really act to put the arcane nature of the instrumentals at the forefront. Again, gone is the call back to the name of the love Natasha (or Pearl in realm of Two Suns) is desperately grasping for. The chorus takes this dark almost underwater feeling as these watery synths ring out along side abstract “ahs” from another voice. You feel like you’re stuck in limbo floating around. As the song ends, we add in the tinny sound of the marxophone and some synth to give a slight brightness in this aquatic wasteland. This all just ends on a minor tone, feeling like you never really get any resolution.
I suggest giving each of these versions of the song a listen and see which is your favorite. I personally swing towards the live version over the others for its darker more tribal feeling. Let me know which is your favorite after giving them a listen.