Natasha Khan shouldn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, exist in the real world. She’s far too talented to succeed in the wading pool of popular American music. It’s sort of like putting Michael Phelps in a kiddie pool and asking him to swim some laps.
“The Haunted Man” shouldn’t exist, either. It’s the kind of album that sound less like a major-label funded LP and much more like some sort of downtown art project that you just happen to walk into. It shouldn’t sound this good, either way. Most major label albums are fucking disasters. On the flipside of that, most indie bands these days pride themselves on how much they look like waiters from Park Slope. So it goes, one who knowses supposes.
“The Haunted Man” is not entirely unlike taking mushrooms and then taking public transportation. The initial pang of melodic-breezy-goth-synth (a sound, and I hate to categorize her so easily, that she is known for) soon unravels into a whole swirling mass. You know what I hate about music writing? All the good words have been taken and all the ones left are cliché – this album defies all cliché – it’s one of the most original sounding albums of the year – and to write about it is like trying to describe a meal with refrigerator poetry.
Natasha may pride herself on the artistic side of her output but she’s also an impeccable songwriter. There’s no denying that while she revels in the weird she is also heavily steeped in melody, specifically the artistic output of Kate Bush, who’s influence on Natasha’s work has always been apparent. But where Kate divulged into her more theatrical sides Natasha has always gone more melodic – there’s simply no way Kate would ever have put out something as street-friendly as “What’s A Girl To Do.” Natasha Khan could have very easily pulled some samples drums out of her ass and made a radio friendly album; she’s perfectly capable. But here it is quite clear that she has purposefully tried to expand her audience’s palate. This is less “Running Up That Hill” (a clear grandmother to the production of half the tracks on ‘Haunted Man’) than it is her “Kid A”; a “difficult” album for the uninitiated yet a revelation for anyone that has been following her.
But it isn’t a difficult album… not in the least… if anything I just worry about what someone unfamiliar with her work will think of this. She’s one of the most talented musicians out there right now yet with an (American, at least) audience that doesn’t know what to think of her because she’s not belting out showtunes on a major network. In a perfect world she’d be Christina Aguilera famous, and everyone would have read every Orwell novel, and we’d all be living happily ever after. Instead, this is an initially difficult sounding third album by a singer on the fringes of the mainstream.
I’m just callin’ it how I sees it. The album is a lot more than it appears, but I fear it will get lost in the shuffle. Natasha’s talent far exceeds her audience.
The core of “The Haunted Man” is a shockingly beautiful piano ballad called “Laura” which sounds like the last song played at a prom at the end of the world. There are very few songs in any artist’s canon that can match up to this – it is disarming, it is vulnerable, and it is strong at the same time. “You are the train that crashed my heart” sings Khan and she sounds like she actually means it – it’s brutal – and one of the best songs of her career.
“Marilyn” is the album’s poppiest song, replete with handclaps and a synth straight out that one “Revenge Of The Nerds” song. Yet instead of staying intent with that, Natasha adds layers of echo and piano. Her voice and the piano blend into eachother in what sounds like a cross between an orgasm and a whale call. Natasha is genuinely one of those artists, I think, who’s own talent exceeds even her own voice; on the lesser realized cuts of “The Haunted Man” one can only imagine what she was hearing in her head and how much it might differ from what she’s offered for us. The highs on “Haunted Man” are so aurally spellbinding that even the lows are stellar.
I do sincerely believe she’s infinitely more talented than, say, Bjork. Natasha should be easier as big as Bjork if not bigger: she has more pain and soul and promise on “The Haunted Man” than any of the half-warm clit-stroking aural wankery that Bjork has offered up the past decade. “The Haunted Man” is a phenomenal record released by a phenomenal artist. But even “Citizen Kane” was a box office failure; it might take a while for the listening public to warm up to something like this. But for my money, “Laura” is one the best songs of the year and one of the most powerful four minutes of music this decade. It’s stunning. It is a masterpiece. It shows the level she can get to. It is fucking breathtaking.
Is “The Haunted Man” good? It’s fantastic. Albums like this will inspire women for years to come to push the boundaries of expectation; to reach further and to expand the minds of others. Will it become a runaway success? Here’s hoping. It should be.