KT Tunstall: Tiger Suit


Like many people, my first exposure to KT Tunstall came as a result of her appearance on Later...with Jools Holland in the autumn of 2004, promoting her debut album Eye to the Telescope. My love of music experiencing something of a malaise at the time, I was captivated by her performance, as using only an acoustic guitar, a tambourine and a loop pedal, she layered a track live as she performed it. The song was ‘Black Horse and the Cherry Tree’, and it was sung with a terrific voice, a voice that was at once rich, powerful and warm.

However, the Later... performance may have wrong-footed many by giving the wrong impression of Eye to the Telescope; indeed, ‘Black Horse...’ was initially only included as a bonus live track. The album instead was defined by the poppy radio-friendly hits of ‘Other Side of the World’, ‘Suddenly I See’ and ‘Under the Weather’. Over the course of the second album Drastic Fantastic and this new offering however, we see Tunstall ‘s sound moving closer to something comparable to ‘Black Horse...’.

In terms of song-writing, there’s no massive turn into left-field. There is a slight musical deviation as electronic beats wash over most of the tracks, but it’s somewhat incongruous, and on the lovely ‘(Still A) Weirdo’, it sounds particularly intrusive. There are other glimpses afforded of a broadening musical palette; the Adam and the Ants backing vocals on ‘Uummannaq Song’, the latter-day Radiohead guitar riff of ‘Push That Knot Away’, and a passing resemblance to Viva la Vida era Coldplay on both ‘Difficulty’ and ‘Fade Like a Shadow’. In terms of sequencing, it’s particularly well done; proceedings don’t let up from the get go, and there’s no sag or filler. In fact, after the appearance of US first single ‘Fade Like a Shadow’ (probably the most immediate song of the collection), the album just gets better, and Tunstall’s voice is the star throughout.

Tiger Suit won’t reconnect with the multi-million unit shifting success Eye to the Telescope enjoyed, mainly because there aren’t many hook-laden pop songs here. What we have instead is a singer-songwriter in her mid-thirties broadening her musical horizons as part of a natural progression from album to album. Tiger Suit might see Tunstall moving further away from a pop sound, but she sounds comfortable in the skin she’s in.

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