The UK’s Mercury Music Prize is basically the musical equivalent of the literary Man Booker Prize: Though neither necessarily goes so far out on a limb that they’re what revolutions are made of, you can be pretty well assured that the nominees are making the best music (or fiction, as it were) right now as opposed to (though not always mutually exclusive of) the most popular. But you already know that. You probably also know that Bat for Lashes, the breathtaking brainchild of singer, multi-instrumentalist and visual artist Natasha Khan, is a nominee for this yearâ€™s Mercury Prize, and she certainly deserves it. Fur and Gold is loose yet organized, expansive yet hummable, experimental yet familiar. Khan has a cinematic sense of arrangement and a sonic majesty that marks her as an absolute original on the pop landscape who nonetheless bears the best markings of recent forbears like PJ Harvey, Bjork, Chan Marshall, Sinead Oâ€™Connor, and Kate Bush. She weaves echoey piano harmonies with one-note-at-a-time basslines and harpsichord with marching drums, conjuring a cabaret-esque intimacy and drama. Yet unlike other recent entries into the post-punk chamber pop canon like Joanna Newsom and CocoRosie (great artists both of ’em, don’t get me wrong), Khan seems to make songs for more than just herself. Her “sounds like” description on MySpace includes “Halloween when you’re small” and “dark nighttime lovemaking,” which pretty much say it all. Fur and Gold is one of the most haunting and engrossing albums Iâ€™ve heard this year precisely because thatâ€™s the only way Khan could have made it.