Ex-Mercury nominee makes a run for the top 40…
John M. Cunningham: Until very recently, I’d assumed for some reason that Bat for Lashes was a pack of bratty, boozy British lads, so it was a welcome surprise to discover that they’re closer to Sally Shapiro than to Franz Ferdinand. More than that, “Daniel” is a haunting gem of a song, delicately combining heartbreakingly spacious synths, wounded but self-assured vocals, and, as if that weren’t enough, a neat little cello solo. The effect is that of a crystal-encased dreamworld, which is the kind of thing that, when I find it, I happily fall into.
Alex Macpherson: “Daniel” sounds like an ancient demo that Kate Bush tossed off in five minutes circa 1985 and instantly forgot about, and which Khan subsequently broke into the studio to steal 24 years later. (For good measure, she seems to have exhumed Kate’s old Fairlight as well.) Khan proceeds to sing her non-song in the manner of a 13-year-old who’s just heard Hounds Of Love for the first time; she doesn’t bother enunciating, but given that her performance is entirely lacking in passion, spirit or personality, one assumes the lyrics are about nothing whatsoever. Eventually, the song dissipates into the ether, and you barely notice.
Jordan Sargent: Despite her feathered headbands and “free-spirit” leanings, Natasha Khan’s music is expertly crafted. At first, “Daniel” comes off as frothy 80s worship, but eventually its ethereal hooks don’t as much stick in your brain as inhabit your skull like cobwebs. Problem is, for as good as “Daniel” is, it’s begging for a starry-eyed synth climax. I guess that’s why we have M83.
Keane Tzong: The driving beat and violin melody are pretty much unassailable, and the vocal performance, far from being an art-school joke like the spoken-word used to… some kind of effect in “What’s a Girl to Do?”, is jarring, beautiful, and, for the first time, something I can take entirely seriously.
Martin Skidmore: Not an Elton John cover, sadly. It’s a dark and swoony paean to a lost love (could be a one-night stand, but probably not). I don’t mind her voice, but it is very passionless, which is out of tune with the lyrics. There’s a nice thundery rumble here and there on this, but I wish I could detect some feeling beyond the words.
Martin Kavka: The only thing keeping this from being an absolute masterpiece is the thinness of Natasha Khan’s voice. It gives the impression that she’s afraid to place her stamp on the world, when it’s obvious that she’s far, far smarter than that. What I find refreshing in this tale of love lost – set to a track that I can best describe as a slightly more foreboding version of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” – is that she doesn’t spend any time trying to figure out why the relationship ended. It seemingly ended as a matter of course, and now she hungers for its heights again.
Rodney J. Greene: “Daniel” comes on as a lovely melody wandering through a hazy boudoir. Natasha Khan’s plaintive voice weaves through synth-horn heraldry, rolling tympanis, and other atmospherics, all tied together by the spunky bassline. If the song is a bit more reliant on tone than tune, that’s ok, because it doesn’t lack greatly for either. What threatens to undo any accomplishment is that Khan’s vocal never breaks through the weight of the reverb, leaving her a diminished presence on her own record and the song without climax.
Hillary Brown: I’ve been rapidly revising my score upward with each listen. At first, I thought this was dry and thin, like some sort of horrid broth that was supposed to be good for me, but it worked its way up with the next go-round, as I started to hear greater depths and a bigger sound, and the Kate Bush/Kitchens of Distinction similarities began to poke their heads out. If I keep listening, it may end up a 10.
Talia Kraines: I was a bit concerned that everyone was banging on about how amazing “Daniel” was when actually it was quite mediocre. Then I played it really loud in a club and realised all the atmospheric thunder bangs and epic soundscaping really makes it. I remain convinced it samples Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff” though.