“Everything is on fire,” Bat for Lashes’ Natasha Khan sings on “Kids in the Dark,” the lead track of her fifth album, Lost Girls, but you might not notice the flames since the song sounds so icy and chilly. It’s easy to get swept away in the song’s glistening synths and fluttery atmosphere. Few artists can make their personal crises sound as serenely gorgeous as Khan. This approach has become her trademark over the past decade-plus, most notably on her beautifully shimmery 2012 album The Haunted Man and its follow-up, 2016’s concept album, The Bride. But on Lost Girls, she finds new ways to soundtrack her constant longing for something more from the world.
On the record, Khan seems to draw inspiration from the synth pop and new wave that likely inspired her as a girl growing up in the Eighties. “Feel for You” has a musical backdrop that recalls Prince’s “Batdance,” but with a pining “I love you, I feel for you” chorus that she sings in a way that makes it sound like she’s not entirely sure that’s what she means. Meanwhile, “So Good” takes a sentiment John Cougar Mellencamp sang about — Khan’s chorus goes, “Why does it hurt so good?” — but pins it against something akin to a chopped-and-screwed Madonna arrangement. “Vampires” is an instrumental that bears a bouncy, Cars-like drumbeat and a dusky guitar-and-synth arrangement that recalls David Bowie and Bauhaus. And on the urgent “The Hunger,” she sings about taking a trip up to the sun against a synth arrangement that sounds like it came off the Stranger Things soundtrack.
But for all of these comparisons, Khan has made an album that still sounds uniquely like something that is her own. Her yearning is uniquely her own, because of the way her voice soars over the synths and the way she commingles hope with depression. It’s masterful and memorable. On Lost Girls, she has come into her own. Her world is burning and she’s willing to go up in flames right along with it.