New releases from Bat for Lashes, Dhani Harrison & Paul Hicks, and Steve Gunn 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Bat for Lashes
  • Bat for Lashes

Bat for Lashes

The Bride

Parlophone/Warner Bros

File next to: Fiona Apple, Lykke Li, Cat Power

Much like Dutch-Somali writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Natasha Khan draws upon her Pashtun background to push the envelope as a modernist woman coming to terms with her familial faith-based culture. For her fourth album as Bat for Lashes, however, Khan makes a deeper bow to the traditional by crafting a romantic concept album about a newlywed pact ending in death. By retreating slightly from the experimentalism of 2012's The Haunted Man, Khan adopts straightforward pop that may be a bit more predictable even as it wins her new fans. But this is more than made up for by The Bride's lovely arrangements and Khan's piercing, plaintive alto voice in songs like "Joe's Dream." Khan reminds us that there is plenty of power left in the concept album that tells a familiar story, and her effort here plants her firmly in the highest echelon of singer-songwriters. — LW

click to enlarge Dhani Harrison and Paul Hicks
  • Dhani Harrison and Paul Hicks

Dhani Harrison and Paul Hicks

Seattle Road (Soundtrack)

HOT Records

File next to: Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, thenewno2

When George Harrison first stepped out of the shadow of the Beatles, he did so with a pair of albums that few heard. Electronic Sounds was a synthesizer record, and Wonderwall was the soundtrack for a film. Though he's his own man, Harrison's son Dhani's musical career has its parallels: His group thenewno2 made pop music with a decidedly electronic bent, and of late he's been involved in soundtrack work. Almost nobody saw Wonderwall, and few are likely to screen the tepidly received Seattle Road, but the latter's soundtrack — made with Dhani's frequent collaborator Paul Hicks — has an appeal of its own. The vinyl-only Seattle Road rarely rocks; instead it's filled with sweeping atmospheric instrumentals and some classical-leaning pieces that display its composer's breadth of skill. — BK

click to enlarge Steve Gunn
  • Steve Gunn

Steve Gunn

Eyes on the Lines

Matador Records

File next to: Kurt Vile, Grateful Dead

Though his stated influences variously suggest that his own music might be experimental, avant-garde or folk-leaning, Steve Gunn instead makes guitar hero music that puts the emphasis on songcraft. With a lean, snaky guitar approach that's equal parts Thurston Moore, Jerry Garcia and Television's Tom Verlaine, Gunn distills those influences into something completely his own. And that something is both fascinating and more accessible than the music that informed it. Gunn's unassuming voice fits snugly into the songs, and his cracking, hyperactive (but never "busy") guitar spins out an almost nonstop barrage of leads. Those leads serve as a kind of countermelody to Gunn's vocals. There's a hypnotic, floating quality to songs like "The Drop" that draws the listener in, and the carefully layered arrangements on Eyes on the Lines consistently reward active listening. — BK


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