Lost Girls by Bat for Lashes | Album Review
Bat for Lashes divine Lost Girls is a glittering testament to vampires, witches, and the 1980s.
Natasha Khan, the creative force behind Bat for Lashes, has made several fantastic records mixing her love for the otherworldly, theatrical, and supernatural in a variety of effects. Her 2012 album, The Haunted Man, saw critical acclaim. She would follow up this album with the concept album, The Bride. This album would be more softer in sound than her prior projects using Khan’s piano, keys, and omnichord to create this etherial atmosphere where the story and instrumentation live. After this record, Natasha was ready to leave behind music to begin work on script writing for a movie. It would be writing a song for a Steven King movie that would be the catalyst for this record:
“I had moved away from London, where I’d lived for seven years, and finished my contract with EMI. My plan initially was to go to Los Angeles to focus on scriptwriting and doing music for film. The first song on the album was actually written for a Stephen King TV series [Castle Rock] — but the music supervisor Charles [Scott] and I had such a good time that we decided to keep meeting. I didn’t even know whether I was going to make an album again — I wanted to have a real break and leave everything behind me. And so when this album started happening, it was sort of a secret — and nobody really knew about it until it was nearly done.” — The Guardian
That first song, “Kids in the Dark”, gives a fantastic entrance to the gloriously neon coated pop record around the Lost Girls. She tells The Guardian about how the concept of the album came to be:
“I was developing a script for a film called The Lost Girls. It was heavily influenced by 80s children’s films and vampire films, many set in Portland and California. But as the songs progressed, I felt like I was writing the film soundtrack. Music does tend to overtake film ideas, as it comes out much more easily.”
After my listening to the first single, the album became a regular on rotation in my playlists. Khan remains near the 80s pop/new wave sound that was the inspiration of this album, however she completely adds her own spice to the mix that gives this effervescent glittering sound a darker mystical tone. The influence of films like the Lost Boys can be felt throughout the album in its youthful expression and supernatural overtones. The album follows the main character Nikki Pink. Natasha told NME this about the story behind the album:
“It’s basically about a girl called Nikki who is obsessed with alien phenomena and sightings and weird things happening. She meets a boy who lives in this town that is being terrorised by a gang of mystical girls who ride bikes and come from the desert. Together they do this kind of Mulder and Scully investigation trying to find out who these girls are and where they come from.”
Her work on scriptwriting shows as this is one of her strongest concept albums to date. Let’s follow Nikki Pink, the main character of these vampire witches, as we find the Lost Girls…
“Kids in the Dark” is the first song released ahead of the album’s release. As stated above, Khan originally wrote the song for the film adaptation of Steven King’s Castle Rock. She wanted to give it a full 80s flair, like that of some of her favorite spooky films of the era. The song would ultimately not be used for this movie. She would take this song and the inspiration it given to make the album you see here. I highly recommend listen to the ‘Song Exploder’ episode on this song as Natasha breaks down the entire process of how the song was created in detail. The glittering arpeggios from the keys and wash of synth s and synth cello give this track a purely euphoric nature from the jump. There is this theme of child-like innocence to the safety this relationship has brought. You can see this in lines like “Lying next to you/ We could be on the moon/ Tell me you’re not leaving” and “And I wanna live for two/ I tell you I’m never leaving”. You can tell that there is some heavy thing going on in there lives, “It’s been such a dark night/ Boy, I know you’ve been grieving”. This rises into the effervescent chorus, “Let’s take it down/ To the heart/ Let’s take it down/ To where the loving starts/ Where we’re just kids in the dark”. This places the imagery of these two falling back to a much more naive and safe time period where you feel like you can do anything. It works wonderfully. This is a must listen off the album.
Song Exploder: Bat for Lashes - Kids in the Dark on Apple Podcasts
Natasha Khan makes music under the name Bat for Lashes. She's released five albums, including Lost Girls, which came…
“The Hunger” is by far my favorite track off the album. The song would be third single off the album. The track opens with Khan’s haunting synth organ that sets the scene for the track. Natasha juxtaposes Pink’s need for blood (as a vampire) with that of her need for love. We start with the girls together as they hunt, “Cause it’s our blood/ (And) And it fills up the sky/ (Ah) Off the bridges we fly/ (Ah) Can we keep us alive? (Ah)”. This evolves into Nikki’s hope to feed in internal yearning for love, “ I want to bleed/ And feed us forever/ But I want to feed/ The hunger inside”. This gets married in glamorous synth bass line that soars into the other layers of synths. My absolute favorite part of the song comes from its transition into the B portion of the song. The shimmering guitar really puts you in full 80s mode. Here is where she states how transformative this love she has for the main male character is, “Cause we can make new love again/ It’s time to start things over/ And we can come back from the dead/ And feed this endless hunger”.
“Feel for You” is the second single off of the record. It’s the weakest track off the album in my opinion. I find its repetitive nature to be a bit grading after a while. I also think that “Desert Man” would have been a far better single choice over this track. I think another issue I take with this track is its simplicity. Lyrically the song is only repeats the lines, “I love ya, I feel for you/ Ah ah ah ah oh/ I love ya, I feel for you/ Ah ah ah ah”. I get Khan was going from a 80s pop/dance feel with track a la Madonna, but it just falls rather flat for me. The song is mix of heavy drum programming, sizzling synths, funky guitar, and sparkling keys. It’s nice, I just wish it was a bit more complete sounding.
“Desert Man” is one of the many high points on the album. When discussing the song with Fader, Khan said:
“It’s an obvious reference to the landscape, but also about being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t feel a sense of home — that romance about the nomadic wild guy and how difficult it is to penetrate people that don’t want to be. It was one of the earlier songs where I was using the landscape as a metaphor for these stark people, empty promises, and vast distances.”
I am extremely surprised that this track was not chosen to be one of the singles off the record. The song begins with testing that connection that the two have between each other, “Measuring the distance between you and I/ Finding the location inside/ You’ll be in a life while I’m alive/ Within the dusty desert sky”. The song’s second verse really plays into the quote from Fader, “Measuring the vastness of pastel blue/ Measuring the sadness I see in you/ You take me to a land, nowhere land/ Pull me in with your both your hands/ And just to love, is all I can do to understand”. She can sense that he is keeping her at arm’s length and even though she wants to get a deeper understanding of his emotions, she’s left with just with arid love he can provide. This is further explored on the song’s chorus, “It’s hard to get high with you/ And not go in love with, it’s so long too/ Take it slow desert man/ Desert man/ Your love is a nowhere land”. As Natasha explained, his love is like the desert. It’s not sustainable for the kind of love she’s wanting. Khan would go on to record an acoustic version of this track that she would release on streaming services and as a limited 7" picture record with the deluxe version of the vinyl for the album.
“Jasmine” is the final single released off of the album. The verses are brought in as these echoing spoken sections. Jasmine is clearly a femme fatale of sorts. The introduction gives you an idea of who she is, “She drives hard through the doom gloom haze/ Legs for days and bones of pearl/ Her love hurtling down deaths highways/ The hands of a killer, the heart of a little girl”. This synth blooms into the songs chorus, “Jasmine/ You come along/ And take me/ To where I feel like/ A woman, coming on strong/ Jasmine, into the night/ Ni-ni-night”. This take on what I can only assume is one of the lost girls that Nikki is travel gives you a feel for some of the darker paths that they take. We end off on a warning about Jasmine, “A body bag, on eucalyptus hills/ And the/ Hollywood forever/ And the endless sleeping pills/ No girl will ever kill your nighttime ills/ Like Jasmine does/ ’Cause when she blooms, she kills”. You get an entire feel for this beautiful and deadly woman who knows how to party and how to kill.
“Vampires” is a fully instrumental track. It’s a cool blend of dark sparkling guitar, keys, and smooth saxophone. It gives off the vibes of cruising through LA at night as your car is illuminated by the various neon lights. The slightly unsettling natural of the chords helps to paint the picture of these vampires out on the prow looking for their prey. It’s a fantastic intermission between the first and second half of the album. I think you’ll find yourself spacing out to it quite a bit.
“So Good” dives into the ebb and flow of this relationship between Nikki and the boy she’s fallen for. She goes from this elation of joy from there connection to a devolving sadness from his treatment of her, “Oh my, I love this boy/ He plays the captain, I’ll play the toy/ And he runs me all over town/ He takes me up and then he brings me down/ He holds my hand and when he takes the bike/ I wear my confidence and dims my light/ But it’s in my body and in my brain/ Wonder could handle and feel the pain”. She further discusses how this relationship is addictive in a way she doesn’t want to fight. This push and pull, although frustrating and upsetting, is exciting to her. This pulls up to the chorus where Pink asks why does this bring her so much joy, “Why does it hurt so good/ You don’t treat me like you should/ Does it hurt so good/ I just need you to tell me (why)”.
“Safe Tonight” is yet another high point on the album. We first see Nikki as she struggles with her existence in this vampiric state along side the man she has fallen for, “I thought that I was broken/ I thought that I had lost my mind/ I thought that I was so in/ So in love, you’d leave me behind/ I did not always show out/ It can be hard for me to cry/ I thought that I was broken/ Until you said, you’re safe tonight”. Easily you could also see this as a metaphor for dealing with other mental struggles and the fear that this would drive someone you care about away. That notion of wanting to be told that your safe and everything is okay is something that I think many can relate to, especially if they are in a dark place. This worry is only further shown in the following lines, “Lying in the dark night all the time/ There’s a demon in my heart that I’m not sure will survive/ The shadows come around one too many times/ Baby, I need you to tell me I’m safe tonight”. This need for comfort when you are in a dark place is told wonderfully through the medium of 80s pop here. We end with the repeated lines, “Safe tonight, don’t go away
Safe tonight, you’ll always stay/ You’re safe tonight”, showing her need for him at this point in time.
“Peach Sky” is another of the more lyrically simple tracks. Unlike “Feel for You”, this song feels much more cohesive than the other. The title of the track evokes the image of a rising sun on a night that felt too blissful to end. This whirlwind romance makes Nikki wish this could last forever even though she knows they aren’t meant to be, “Am I on your mind/ ’Cause I want you all the time/ Oh, you and I know/ I know it ain’t right/ So I, I want a longer night”. The call out to a longer night also keeps in mind the notion of her vampiric form. We end off on Pink’s promise to let him come to her as she knows despite all that they are meant to be, “You know that I/ Would do it right, I won’t chase you down/ You know that I/ Can do it right, I won’t chase you down/ ’Cause I’m your girl”.
“Mountains” is the final track on the record. We see the end of the relationship between Nikki and her boyfriend. We open on Nikki begging to be thrust into the flames than to be left on her own with him, “You know I couldn’t see which way to turn/ Fell down at the floor at your feet/ Begged you to let me burn/ Told you that I’m just too afraid/ To stay here in your arms/ Drive me off the edge of this cliff/ And you can watch me crash dance”. This death of him, be it symbolic to the loss she feels or the actual death of the character forces her to have to cope and keep moving forward, “So you turned to the mountain/ She started to sing soft/ Elvis in the midnight air/ I lost your body and soul to the fog/ A hundred forks in the road/ A hundred knives in my heart/ You said go sing to the lovers/ Don’t ever look over your shoulders”. The song ends with the repeating chorus that takes the main character from pleading to try to start at the beginning, to just asking to be gently sung out, “We both know, it’s not an easy ride/ When it goes up in smoke, I just want to hide/ Can we make it right, like it was at the start?/ Sing to me in the dark”.
I absolutely loved this album. “Feel for You” was the lowest point on the album for me overall. The album’s highs by far out weigh any lows. My biggest fault is that I wish the album was a bit longer. I feel like we get going in this fantastic web of shining 80s pop only to end too soon. I needed more than just 10 tracks. I will say that these 10 songs are a joy to listen to. She’s definitely grown in her songwriting skills. Since the release of this record, she has released a live EP and album. You can pick up the album through her bandcamp. She has also started a Patreon where she can do other creative ventures and interact more with her fans. I will include a link to these below. I can’t wait til her next album. Keep up the stellar work Natasha! My favorites:
- “Kids in the Dark”
- “The Hunger”
- “Desert Man”
- “Safe Tonight”
My overall rating: 8.5 out of 10 tubular vampire queens.
Bat for Lashes Bandcamp:
Bat for Lashes Patreon:
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