Bat For Lashes, Yeasayer – Nottingham Rock City, Monday October 12.
Having impressed the cognoscenti with their fine debut All Hour Cymbals, it has been a couple of years since we last heard anything from Brooklyn-based art-rockers Yeasayer. Last night’s warmly received thirty-minute support slot gave the band – now expanded to a five-piece – a chance to try out material from their next album, due for release in the new year. The new songs sound more straightforwardly accessible and melodic, nudging the band away from the Animal Collective end of the indie spectrum (gone is the tribal hollering which characterised much of the first album), and placing them nearer to fellow Brooklyn-ites MGMT. That early experimentalism has by no means vanished – but equally, a commercial breakthough now looks possible.
Natasha Khan, the 29 year-old singer-songwriter who performs as Bat For Lashes, has drawn creative inspiration from the same Brooklyn scene for her second album Two Suns. Although eclipsed in sales terms by the strikingly similar Florence and the Machine, Natasha’s music offers subtler, richer rewards. Where Florence can sound strident and over-egged, Natasha understands the value of space, restraint and a softer, surer touch.
Backed by a shifting line-up of up to six musicians, with strings and percussion shaping the musical palette, Natasha maintained an ethereal, captivating presence. After building to a mid-set peak with Daniel and What’s A Girl To Do, the band faced the tricky task of maintaining the momentum set by their two best-known numbers. The energy levels dipped for a while, before soaring to new heights with the percussive, syncopated Two Planets and a thunderous, climactic Pearl’s Dream.
Encoring with The Big Sleep (the final track on Two Suns), Natasha duetted with a monochrome screen image of herself, who faded from view after the first verse. Was this a way of bidding farewell to “Pearl”, the alter-ego around which the album is centred? Theatrical to the end, Bat For Lashes were poetic without being pretentious, spiritual without being soppy, and tender without being twee. Glorious, uplifting stuff.