Scottish singer KT Tunstall came out of nowhere a few years to conquer an audience that lay somewhere between middle-indie and middle-age. "Suddenly I See" managed to pop up in movies ("The Devil Wears Prada"), commercials, and anywhere else it could be fitted in. "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" was performed on American Idol before anyone was aware of the song. 


Since she wasn't seventeen years old at the time, her fans became those thirtysomething folks that wanted something that rocked a little, but not to the point that they would dislocate anything. 


Her second album passed without much notice and comment, and it was probably with that in mind that KT approached her third disc. Decamping to Berlin and recording the album in the same studio where Bowie did "Heroes", and U2 did "Achtung Baby", KT did the new "Tiger Suit". 


It's darn good, too.


There are a couple of flashes of absolute brilliance here, and a set of songs that generally are above average in composition, execution, and production. Let's talk about the really good ones first : 


"Difficulty" stands out not only because it's the longest song on the record, but because it's the best. A buzzy, fuzzy indie guitar anchors a gorgeous vocal, and the song has a hooked chorus ("You change every day...") with creative backing vocals. As a matter of fact, it's the backing vocals that make most of the record as good as it is. More about that shortly. 


First single "(Still a) Weirdo" has funky percussion, a whistling synth, and another transcendent vocal, and another chorus that draws the listener in quickly. The song sounds intimate, as if KT is leaning into your ear half whispering. Beautiful. 


The rest of the album is pitched somewhere between Sheryl Crow and Cheryl Cole, but has a gutsy and smart feel that's better than either of KT's peers. The vocals remain consistently nice; the songwriting quality for the most part remains strong with occasional dips. 


As I said above, nearly every song has great backing vocals, done - as far as I can tell - by Ms. Tunstall herself. Opener "Uummanaq Song" has some staccato "Yeah-ay, Yeah-ay-ah"s that remind me a bit of Nelly Furtado. "Fade Like a Shadow" has an echoing meow. "Golden Frames", a bluesy track, brings in a male voice (is that her pal Seasick Steve?). 


A couple of minor missteps are evident as well, but they're not huge distractions. What, for instance, does KT have against Margaret Trudeau? The song "Madame Trudeaux" seems aimed at her, and features some rather cutting lyrics. The tune itself is not bad, but one has to wonder what the motivation was. "Come On, Get In" is pleasant enough, but it seems like a conscious effort to write another "Black Horse". 


Final track "The Entertainer" is an anthemic ballad, atmospheric but not particularly memorable. 


KT herself has described her new album as "Eddie Cochran meets Leftfield", and while that doesn't quite tick all the boxes, it's a start. "Tiger Suit" is vital, clean, and nicely done. 


I give the album an 8 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.
Linda
10/6/2010

Enjoyed reading your blog about KT Tunstall's new album. I must agree with you, she was completely unnoticed on her second album, didn't even know she had released one. Wouldn't mind getting a copy of her new album from you.

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