Five-Minute Record Reviews: The Sword, Peter Gabriel, and Bat For Lashes!

Bat For Lashes - The Haunted Man

As artists of this ilk tend to fall into the "too twee for their own good" category, Natasha Khan is a real breath of fresh air, delivering stark yet ethereal soundscapes over which her voice continually hits you like a bucket of cold water; alternately refreshing and breathtaking. The minimal arrangments allow Khan to fully explore the limitless boundaries of her voice, which recalls Siouxsie Sioux and Kate Bush. Like both of those artists, Khan's songs are superbly written, each seemingly existing as its own unique musical universe. The variance of instrumentation and tempos keeps things fresh and gives the album an eerily cinematic quality, no instrument, voice or percussive element used without a precise and specific purpose. In that sense, Khan is like a great movie director, knowing exactly what she wants to convey while reaching back to the past for inspiration.

Peter Gabriel - So (25th Anniversary Edition)

In hindsight, never have artistic innovation, unyielding creativity and commercial success co-existed so wonderfully as on Gabriel's landmark 1986 album, So. Thing is, over the course of 25 years, one can tend to take even great songs like "Sledgehammer" and "In Your Eyes" for granted. So. instead of just buying this deluxe re-issue, we suggest that you pick up the Classic Albums documentary on the making of So to gain a revealing, sometimes jaw-dropping insight into the intense and meticulous thought process that went into the creation of this album. We won't spoil it for you by giving away some of the best stories, but we can promise you that watching this documentary will change the way you listen to these songs forever and for better. As for the extras contained in the Deluxe Edition of this truly classic album, the two discs of live material are riveting. rarely, if ever, has a live performance sounded this pristine and full of life. Our only gripe is the absence of any of the many extended mixes that were released to promote various songs from the album.

The Sword - Apocryphon

Have a hankering for some old-school, twin guitar metal? If so, The Sword's amazing new record will satiate you for a good long while. One listen to knuckle-grinders like "The Veil Of Isis" and "Hawks & Serpents" will have you scouring Craigslist for an old Econoline van. While it's a jean-jacket-wearing blessing that a band like this still exists on a musical landscape littered with so many posers and pretenders, one can't help wish these guys had been around thirty years ago, when an album like this would have sold ten million copies and inspired an entire generation. That the kids are too busy listening to Taylor Swift whine about her latest break-up to notice this iconic Phoenix rising from the ashes of their self-worshiping ways is ultimately their loss.

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