released Oct 5th, 2010
from the album - Push That Knot Away
Born in 1975, Scottish singer/songwriter KT Tunstall — not short for anything, the KT is just an alternate spelling of Katie — comes from the quaint university town of St. Andrews. Due in part by being adopted at birth, her imagination and creative side flourished from early on as she thought about how her life could have gone in any given direction. As she was growing up, her physicist father would take Tunstall and her brothers into the St. Andrews observatory to look at the sky, thus fueling her youthful love for space and sci-fi. It wasn't until discovering hair metal through a brother that music really did start to become important to her, and when it did, her affection for spacy things was reflected in her favorite album, David Bowie's Hunky Dory.
Tunstall picked up playing piano and flute at a young age, learned to sing by listening to Ella Fitzgerald, and began writing her own songs in her mid-teens. At 16, she taught herself the guitar and continued to hone her writing skills with sentimental love songs. A scholarship to the Kent School, a private prep school in Connecticut, brought her experiences outside of St. Andrews and Scotland. She formed her first band there, the Happy Campers, and enjoyed seeing shows by 10,000 Maniacs and the Grateful Dead. Next came a music course at London's Royal Holloway College, before heading back home and immersing herself in the local grassroots scene that birthed bands like the Fence Collective and the Beta Band. Around this time, KT was also listening to a lot of Billie Holiday, Lou Reed, and James Brown, among others, and soon formed a group with the Fence Collective's Pip Dylan.
Fast forward a few years. KT returned to London and began writing more songs, many of which would appear on her subsequent album. She entered a backwoods Wiltshire studio with minimal instruments in tow and Steve Osborne (U2, New Order) at the controls. The end result was her glossy debut, Eye to the Telescope, released in the U.K. in January 2005 on Relentless. Highlighting her soulful voice, sassy attitude, and earthy songwriting approach, comparisons to Dido, Fiona Apple, and Kate Melua soon sparked. Following the record's release, Tunstall hit all over Europe, including shows supporting Joss Stone and singing with Oi Va Voi. Feeling an acoustic guitar was sometimes too limiting, her live show incorporated the use of an Akai Headrush foot pedal that allowed her to spot-record multiple times (loop each section continuously), thus turning Tunstall into her own one-woman backup band.
Early 2006 continued to be bright for Tunstall as Telescope was released in the United States that February, and she won Best British Female Solo Artist at the Brits. Meanwhile, her first single, "Black Horse & the Cherry Tree," continued to do very well on American adult alternative radio. KT Tunstall's Acoustic Extravaganza was issued that fall; it included acoustic tracks (both new and old) recorded the previous Christmas along with a bonus making-of DVD. In 2007 Tunstall returned to the scene with her poppier Drastic Fantastic. Three years later, Tunstall recorded her third album, Tiger Suit, at Berlin's Hansa studio, the same place where David Bowie recorded Heroes. The album appeared in the fall.
Drastic Fantastic — the spangly attempt at pop stardom consolidation — didn’t catch on like it should have, but KT Tunstall doesn’t quite beat a retreat on its 2010 sequel, Tiger Suit. Sure, she’s reverted to contemplative photographs for her album art, but Tiger Suit isn’t a hermetically sealed sensitive singer/songwriter record, all quivering sincerity and strummed guitars. Fittingly for an album recorded at Berlin’s Hansa studio, where Achtung Baby and Heroes were cut, it is produced, polished, and textured, an album with movement and progression. Once the ominous opening chords to “Uummannaq Song” drift away, the song settles into a tight art-funk groove accentuated with folk shout-alongs, following no straight path to its conclusion. Tunstall takes no direct routes on Tiger Suit — not when she slows tempos down, not when she recycles the “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” rhythm for “Come on, Get In” — but the twists that take her into the fuzzy glam-stomp of “Madame Trudeaux,” the whistled hook of “Glamour Puss,” the tight swirling circles of “Difficulty,” or the languid European blues of “Golden Frames” aren’t self-conscious stylizations, they’re lively and unexpected, colorful enough to grab upon first listen and rich enough to reveal layers upon repeats. As sonically pleasing as it is, Tiger Suit isn’t a mere vehicle for sound; it’s built upon Tunstall’s strongest set of songs yet, and it’s no coincidence that they’re her most ambitious, either: she may be firmly within the mainstream but she’s taking risks as a composer and record-maker, never settling into the role of the earnest earthbound folkie, winding up with an excellent album that satisfies as pure sound and as songwriting sustenance.
1 Uummannaq Song Tunstall 3:38
2 Glamour Puss Kurstin, Tunstall 3:19
3 Push That Knot Away Tunstall 3:45
4 Difficulty Tunstall 4:59
5 Fade Like a Shadow Tunstall 3:28
6 Lost Terefe, Tunstall 4:41
7 Golden Frames Tunstall 3:45
8 Come On, Get In Terefe, Tunstall 3:40
9 (Still A) Weirdo Kurstin, Tunstall 3:40
10 Madame Trudeaux Perry, Tunstall 3:18
11 The Entertainer Hogart, Tunstall 4:47