On Lost Girls, Natasha Khan sounds more free than she has since she completely lay her trust in the arms of another on “Daniel,” the lead single off her 2009 album Two Suns. Interim Bat for Lashes releases have found Khan growing more wary of opening herself up, of diving so deeply into the rapture of romance. Both 2012’s The Haunted Man and 2016’s The Bride were burdened by ghosts in their respective explorations of trauma — the latter album even put trauma at the center of its concept-album premise, as Khan’s narrator (the titular bride) mourned the sudden death of her groom right before the wedding day. Lost Girls feels like a rejuvenation, then, with Khan sounding as if she’s once again ready to indulge in the thrills of newfound love. Lead single “Kids in the Dark” is all about a faded heart that has reclaimed its life, and its color: the barren us-against-the world synth-pop roars to life, and is reminiscent of a stately M83 ballad, circa Before the Dawn Heals Us. The smeared production adds a dreamy flare to all of the events that are experienced through the eyes of Khan’s love-struck narrator, and that ethereal sound continues to spread throughout the rest of Lost Girls as well, dissolving the outlines of the most physically defined sounds and creating a kind of motion blur.
The specificity is missed from a songwriter who once wrote rich character pieces like “Daniel” and “Laura,” songs that revealed entire histories. It’s no wonder, then, that the strongest moments on Lost Girls cut through ambiguity.
On “Desert Man,” the drums seem to echo into oblivion, while droning organ courses through “The Hunger.” The most psychedelic track is the sax-led instrumental “Vampires,” which sounds like a glamorous mirage of a long lost ’80s new wave groove. Khan’s impressionistic approach to sound places much emphasis on overall mood; and her lyrics, too, are focussed more on emotional wavelengths as opposed to tactile narrative details. The singer seizes on generalities, leaning into the epic scale of her album’s production to help elevate these feelings into grand statements. This can lapse into lack of creative: “So Good” meanders along, repeating its titular line without adding any unique history, while the retro funk of the track further points to its close reference point, Chaka Khan’s new wave classic “Feel You.” The specificity is missed from a songwriter who once wrote rich character pieces like “Daniel” and “Laura,” songs that revealed entire histories. It’s no wonder, then, that the strongest moments on Lost Girls cut through ambiguity: “Safe Tonight” boasts a robust dance-pop production, its crisply defined sound acting as a guiding light for a vulnerable-feeling Khan. The clearest message, though, comes across during the climax of “Peach Sky,” as Khan shakes off all self-doubt, her back-masked vocal finally declaring, “I’m your girl.” While the allure of the new, and the mysterious, colors much of the romance chronicled on Lost Girls, the album is at its most powerful when uncertainty gives ways to emotional clarity.