KT Tunstall: Tiger Suit

Written by September 28th, 2010 at 11:14 am

KT Tunstall
Tiger Suit
Virgin
Rating: ★★½☆☆

The bouncing country blues vibe of Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall has, for the most part, all but gone. Tiger Suit wears a different skin than her previous recordings, and the highs and lows are obvious. Some blues still rocks and rolls beneath certain tracks, but it’s masked by ’80s percussion, synthy pop and dance beats that sound like they should be backing a hit, but with a tendency to irritate.

“Uummannaq Song” starts things off on an exotic foot, with tribal backing vocals and the snap of an ’80s beat that carries into “Glamour Puss,” in which Tunstall again flaunts her talent for profiling a lovely lady (bringing to mind her 2005 hit “Suddenly I See” off of Eye To The Telescope). Her old style resurfaces in “Push That Knot Away” in which Tunstall combines a dance vibe with country blues and her trademark full-bodied bellow (and at 2:20 it breaks down into a wicked beat). Then it’s back to all-dance with a distorted little riff in “Difficulty” that’s like a poppy, off-key version of Radiohead’s “The National Anthem.” Tunstall sings, “You change every day/how can I tell you the truth when I don’t want to.” Hmm. Sounds like something Keane would say. “Fade Like a Shadow” is the first U.S. single and quite the annoying pop song, but “Golden Frames” is a redemptive track in which the grit and blues returns over dark, honeyed vocals. Male and Female voices join together to make one bad and dirty song, in the vein of Raising Sand’s “Rich Woman.” On “(Still a) Weirdo,” the lovely Tunstall tries to convince us of her oddball nature: “optimistic but never quite elegant/still a weirdo after all these years.”

Though by now it’s established that Tunstall can pen a song and certainly make a hit, there’s nothing on Tiger Suit that makes a lasting impact. In spite of careful production and an abundance of catchy rhythms, the album averages out to a mediocre work of confused genres, and the good songs are in the minority. They all have a beat you can move to, but you won’t remember it when the dance is over.

  • Zathras10

    It just amazes me what passes for music criticism these days. “The lovely Tunstall tries to convince us of her oddball nature.” It’s not credible for her to be a weirdo because…she’s *pretty*? How is that not tremendously shallow and more than a little bit sexist (all the more sad coming from a female reviewer)? If you were more than vaguely aware of her from, say, more than just Black Horse and Suddenly I See, had ever seen her speak in depth, you’d know that in fact she *is* a bit of an oddball.

    As to the rest of the review’s inconsistencies and misrepresentations of the album’s sound, I really can’t be arsed to go into them after that one. Criticism fail.

  • John Forsyth

    I actually agree with the review and think it’s a very fair representation of what is a very random album. It sounds completely disjointed and all these constant vocal loops and little noises don’t excite, they simply irritate.
    I think Tunstall is completely resting on her laurels and she’s a very lucky lady to have fans like the above poster who will continue to buy any old rubbish she pedals out.

  • dreaminmusic

    KT has folk roots, which, usually, has songs that mean something. I like the fact that her songs are all different…..I have about 130, or so, KT songs and I can listen to the entire playlist….With most other artists I can only listen to a few songs before I need to change it up again. It takes someone with personality to appreciate a broad spectrum of music. I hope her next artwork is also new and exciting.

  • Ruben Hillyard

    This is the first review I’ve read that really nails it. 2.5 out of 5 is a fair score for a VERY average album; and I say that as someone who was a massive fan of her first two albums.

    There is something irritating about many of the songs on this new album; I think that’s largely attributable to the annoying dubbed-in electro-sound effects. For example, “Still a Weirdo” would have been a really good song without the backing of what can only be described as a choir of KTs all clearing their throats repeatedly.

  • Zathras10

    “Resting on her laurels?” Really? Yes, exploring new avenues in her sound, taking on new songwriting territory, working with new musicians, producer, and songwriting partners, how very…lazy of her. *scratches head*

    Don’t fancy Tunstall’s new direction, or for that matter her sound, her music, or her generally? Absolutely fair game and the way it ought to be. No one performer is going to please everyone’s ears. (I might also suggest that if you find vocal loops irritating, an album by a vocalist famous for live looping might have already been the wrong listen for you to begin with.) But it’s glaringly inconsistent to accuse an artist of resting on her laurels while simultaneously purporting to agree with an album review criticizing the artist for, among other things, *not* sticking to enough of the good old rootsy country-blues sound the reviewer seems to expect as her same-old-same-old (incorrectly so as it happens, the album’s plenty rootsy still, but that’s beside the broader point). Sorry, can’t have it both ways.

  • Ruben Hillyard

    Zathras10

    Chill out.

    I used to be very defensive when it came to criticism of KT.

    I was thinking with a part of my anatomy located south of my brain.

  • Zathras10

    So Ruben you can’t come up with any actual substance to disagree with what I have to say? All right then, duly noted.

    And if you think what I wrote is nothing but automatic libido-driven reaction, you clearly didn’t actually read my posts. Had, you, you’d have caught that I’m fine with people not liking KT, it’s a big world. Not so fine with people using glaring illogic to slag her off.

  • Ruben Hillyard

    You’re obviously an over-analytical sort of person.

    One either really likes an album, really hates it, or they think, “Meh!”

    This is a meh album.

    It’s not really bad, but it’s not memorable. I suppose companies could play it in their elevators on low volume.

    I’m just glad I didn’t pay for it (if you know what i mean). :O

  • Zathras10

    In other words, I actually *think*. So sorry, I’d try to do less of that, but it’s a rather old habit to break at my age.

    The sad thing is that you don’t realize that admitting you stole the album undermines any credibility to the claim that you were previously a huge fan.

    But not much interested in continuing any debate, really. I’ve had my say and the slaggers can have the thread. As a different singer-songwriter once said in a somewhat clunky song that nevertheless told the truth, “you can’t get the sound from a story in a magazine.”

    People who come and read this review will at least be informed that the the sound of the album might not match what’s described in the review, which rather over-emphasizes the amount of electronic influence and downplays the still-evident rootsiness. It’s still very much a KT Tunstall album, and if that interests people at all, they’ll still check out the album regardless of what this one negative review says. I’m okay with that.

  • John Forsyth

    Zathoruso, she is resting on her laurels.
    Her past success ensures people like you will buy the album and defend it to the nth degree to people like us who think it’s annoying and not drastically different.

    You make her out as if she’s the best thing since sliced bread and has taken a drastic change in direction when its really a mish mash of same old same
    Old

  • Zathras10

    John, I am *so* not responsible for your lack of reading comprehension skills. Done here.

  • mkirwan

    John i totally disagree with the last bit of your comment- KT has taken a completely new direction with this album and has worked immensely hard on it. The documetary from Tiger Suit proves this. It sounds totally different in comparison to her previous albums- from classic singer/songwriter to techno/electro sounding. How can you say it’s the same?

  • rachael

    kt rocks her album is different yes but at least she is true to herself and her music. she wanted to change her sound a bit so she did i think yas all need to back off and let the girl do her thing shes is in my eyes one of the best singersongwriters that has ever hit the charts she an inspiration

  • Ruben Hillyard

    She believes in globull warming, and thus I owe her nothing but mockery.

  • dreaminmusic

    thanks for the giggles guys, that was rather amusing lol

  • Philip

    Gee guys, why so excited. I long ago realised people like some music I hate and vice versa. There is no logic or right or wrong. Trying to define what is ‘good’ or ‘bad” music in any logical way is a hopeless task because we listen in an emotional way and respond thus. That’s why reviewers spend so much time giving us reference points as to what they hear. It is “better” or “worse” than the last album to their ears or sounds like such-and-such.

  • Sarah J

    Wow, it seems the writer of this article has no true taste for music. Yes it’s different from her usual style but it’s also delightful. To me it’s her “get up and dance” album and I love it.

    I’m glad the woman is daring enough to try something new and grow as an artist and other *knowledgeable* music reviewers seem to agree. :-)

  • Steve

    Have to agree with the author.
    Maybe not 100%, but as most of us here I was disappointed too.

    As a long time fan I must say that this was the first time when the impression after listening was nearly the same as the author’s of this review.

    I loved Suddenly I see the same way as Hold On or Silent Sea.
    I do not think she has to stick to what she knows best etc.,
    but I always loved her for being unique and using her strong ‘suits’ ;) .

    This time there are very few interesting pieces and the feel to go mainstream is creeping in more and more.
    Especially thanks to the aforementioned dubbed in electro-pop effects.

    That was the deal breaker for me. It is always a fight between staying loyal to the fans that came on board with previous music, but this last album is the least favourite of all for me at least.

    Anyways…. it’s a question of taste and I can’t expect everyone to agree with me, but it was sure as hell nice to read this review and some of your comments lads, to know that it is not just my feeling about this piece.

  • Vanessa

    She’s certainly not resting on her laurels – she pushed herself in a new direction with “nature techno”.

    Unfortunately, it… didn’t work out with her old fans as ideally as people would’ve hoped. Then again she said she didn’t care anyway.

    I’m a longtime fan of KT and while I think there are enough nice bits to push this to a 3/5, it really is my least favourite out of the three studio albums she’s released so far. “Nature techno” isn’t quite my cup of tea.

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