Natasha Khan, aka Bat for Lashes, boasts plenty of indie cred. She counts Radiohead, Yeasayer and Beck among her famous fans and collaborators. The London native lived in the hipster hotspot of Brooklyn for a while. Two of her albums have been nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize. And she managed to make Kings of Leon sound slightly less annoying with her awesome cover of ‘Use Somebody.’

But Khan can be a difficult artist to get into if you’re not on her wavelength. She’s mystical and slightly batty at times – think the best and worst of Kate Bush, Björk and Tori Amos rolled into one. Think a concept album bridging the 16th and 23rd centuries in which she took on the persona of a hyper-feminine version of herself named Pearl.

Khan is on earthier ground for the fourth Bat for Lashes album, ‘The Haunted Man,’ a set of relatively straightforward songs that rarely overstretches its parameters. It’s a less ambitious record than 2009’s ‘Two Suns’ (the one where she played Pearl), but it’s also more accessible -- if songs about celestial revelations played on electronic instruments down-tuned for medieval times are your thing.

Like the 2007 single ‘What’s a Girl to Do?’ (from Bat for Lashes’ debut album ‘Fur and Gold’), the best songs on ‘The Haunted Man’ stand on their own, without some grand underlying concept propping them up. ‘All Your Gold’ flutters along slinky percussive rolls, stripping its verses to their core before erupting on the choruses. The haunting piano ballad ‘Laura’ is a gorgeous showcase for Khan’s delicate voice. And the waves of electronic noise that rush over ‘Marilyn’ are cloudbustingly epic.

Yet Khan can’t sustain this tone for the entire album. Parts of it drift into a snoozy otherworld where mood and arty adornment take precedent over everything else. At times they come to Khan’s rescue, especially if the songs aren’t going anywhere. But they don’t compensate for the occasional shortage of tunes. But this is Bat for Lashes’ most balanced record -- not too heavy, not too light. You can actually catch a glimpse of the real world through the crystal visions.

7 out of 10 rating

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