KT Tunstall - Tiger Suit

When KT Tunstall packed up her guitar and trusty loop pedal and finally arrived in America in early 2006, she was the welcome foil to the unruly gang of bubblegum pop stars who had hijacked the charts.  An actual musician, an actual songwriter – from Scotland – as the pied piper of the great acoustic rock resurgence: who knew?  Thankfully, everyone knew soon enough, as she toured relentlessly, woohoo–ing “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” and belting “Suddenly I See” from continent to continent, easily converting audiences to the cause of her debut album, Eye to the Telescope with her revival-like live performances.  Fast forward to late 2007, when her sophomore effort, Drastic Fantastic, was released to whispers of an unevenness that was uncharacteristic of the rock solid reputation that Tunstall had cemented for herself on the road.  She then married her partner and drummer, Luke Bullen, and the two seemingly disappeared, departing the limelight to enjoy married life and to travel the world for nearly 2 years.

Her third album, Tiger Suit, is about, and made of, departures.  The stops in this sojourn saw Tunstall parting ways with her long-time producer Steve Osborne in favor of working with Jim Abbiss, known for producing some of the UK’s most acclaimed indie and pop artists of the last decade (Adele, Kasabian, Editors, Arctic Monkeys).  She parted ways with her long-standing band and brought in new session musicians for the record and new touring musicians for her band.  She collaborated on songwriting with Linda Perry (Pink, Christina Aguilera, 4 Non Blondes) and Greg Kurstin (Beck, The Bird and the Bee). She incorporated more synth and beat effects into the song mixes, inspired by the late ‘90s album of electronica legend, Leftism by Leftfield, among others.

The title is inspired by a recurring dream that Tunstall has had since she was a child, in which she approaches a tiger in her garden and pets its head, only to walk away and realize what she had done was dangerous.   It’s the perfect allegory for a body of work that sees Tunstall facing critics, fans, and ultimately herself, and having the blind courage to make a record that belonged truly to her, rather than another KT TUNSTALL! (neon flashing lights implied) album.  In building this collection, she started with clay instead of with brick – it was lovingly shaped by hand rather than by mortar and mallet.  The result is an album of tangible evolution and incredible diversity.

This is an album with much less pop structure, but much deeper spirit.   The songs are still catchy and hooky in only the way KT can make them, but in a more mystical, sometimes almost tribal way.  This is especially present in the driving rhythm and backing vocals of “Uummannaq Song,” inspired by her trip to Greenland with other artists concerned with climate change as a part of the Disko Bay Cape Farewell expedition.  The creation of the beautifully layered “Still a Weirdo,” illustrates Tunstall’s process shift from formulaic to organic, as from start to finish, the song was written and recorded in 5 hours.  The original session appears on the album.  The gently edgy contemplation started there carries over into the lush “Lost,” and the mysterious “Golden Frames,” which features Seasick Steve on backing vocals.  Perhaps the most interesting and pleasant surprise is that there are a number of tracks that are completely and utterly danceable and defy you NOT to get out of your seat when you hear them.  These tunes, “Glamour Puss,” “Push That Knot Away,” and “Fade Like A Shadow,” also showcase Tunstall’s gift for the slow, haughty, simmering tension that builds until the song explodes in a final dizzying crescendo.  These are “big” songs that move into your head and bounce off of the walls that will undoubtedly see club remixes (or, one can only hope).  The other feature that these songs, and the incredibly gritty “Madame Trudeaux,” trumpets is Tunstall’s voice.  There is a freedom, a raggedness, a rasp, that has never been captured on her previous studio recordings but is well known to those who have seen her perform live - she has clearly found her way to translate this from stage to studio. (And the treat will be when she translates them back into live performances, for which she is legendary.)

The Buzz:

KT Tunstall has triumphantly reentered the music world with an incredibly interesting, intricate, dancey, trancey, mystical collection of songs that while made on her own terms, is gorgeously accessible and will get under your skin.


“Still A Weirdo”

“Push That Knot Away”

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