Picture your big day, your perfect wedding day. You’ve donned the white dress, gathered your closest friends and family, shaken away the last few nerves of the always daunting “cold feet.” And then you get the news: your fiancé has died in a car crash. Your life would seemingly spin to a halt. In “The Bride”, Bat for Lashes creates a powerful widowed bride who refuses to let her life stand still. Instead, she embarks on her honeymoon alone, and delves into a trip of sadness and discovery.
When I sat down to listen to “The Bride,” I was going through some of my own personal heartache. Perhaps the trouble I had found myself in that day heightened the intensity I felt, but once I heard the first track “I Do,” I was sucked into the story Natasha Khan (Bat for Lashes) had written so beautifully.
While the album is purely fictitious, I could hear that the feelings Khan chose to explore were real, proving that loneliness can often be more compelling than romance. “The Bride” begs its listeners to succumb to every dark corner of sadness both in themselves, in that moment, or in the leading lady of this record.
Beneath the veil of every good concept album, the artist often attempts to communicate something greater than a tale of fiction. Khan explores the concept of marriage and how it is expected of people when they reach a certain point of their lives. But the singer, being 36 and not married herself, has chosen to devote the majority of her life to art and self reflection, rather than who she is to be wedded to. The album is somewhat a rebellion against convention. Not to say that Bat for Lashes is promoting some sort of anti-marriage message, but rather to demonstrate the importance it is for one to get to know themselves, rather than to conform to what others expect. As we follow her character along the journey of her honeymoon, we watch her evolve from a heartbroken widow, trying to cope with the death of her lover, into an independent woman, finding herself and taking resolve in that. “And I thought it was you I had been searching for/But somehow I am the mirror, the mountain, the door,” sings Khan in “If I Knew.”
Laden with soft instrumentation, a delicate use of electronic beats and breathy dream-pop vocals that are at times reflective of Bjork or Cocteau Twins singer, Liz Fraser, Bat for Lashes puts us in a dream-like state from start to finish. Once we press play, we are sucked in to the thoughts of the Bride; we feel her misery and then later into the record, her sense of retribution and hopefulness to “love again”. While we do not find out about the death of Joe, her fiancé, until “In God’s House,” an eerie and poetic track, the tone is set from the beginning.
We have committed to Khan’s tragedy before we fully understand what kind of adventure she is taking us on. Bat for Lashes uses delicate and intense musical textures simultaneously to paint vivid imagery through sound. “The Bride” is a poetic narrative worthy of the pain of its heartbreak, a strong piece of music that we must remind ourselves is not biographical. And perhaps breathe out a sigh of relief when we do.