The lilies of the field, they have a rep for not toiling. Natasha Khan is rather the opposite. Bat for Lashes’ art-pop mastermind is nothing if not ambitious, as her extravagantly rewarding third album, last year’s The Haunted Man, demonstrated from its very first track, the high-concept “Lilies.” The ornate, delicately passionate song covers a lot of ground, including premodern English mysticism, lusty femininity, and most of all, a joie de vivre worthy of an ancient fertility goddess. “Thank God I’m alive,” Khan sings amid orchestration that doesn’t rule out the macabre.
The song’s new video, directed by Peter Sluszka (Björk, Devendra Banhart, Regina Spektor), brings “Lilies” wonderfully down to earth. That underlying euphoria seeps through the moment Khan starts to dance with animated beasties worthy of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. If the song risks becoming a thing to admire rather than enjoy, the video helps ensure it’s both.
Way back in 2009, Khan told me that for what would become The Haunted Man she was excited about “really getting into the countryside and the folklore and the mythology of England in a contemporary way. And how the hell am I gonna do that without sounding like some weird pagan, Wicker Man, cheesy ’70s prog-rock band?” Just like this: By not being afraid to be a little playful sometimes. Think of the lilies.