Plumbiferous Media

Tiger Suit – KT Tunstall

Oct 7th 2010
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Tiger Suit - KT TunstallKT Tunstall
Tiger Suit
Score: 57

Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall’s third LP, Tiger Suit, came out on Tuesday, just over 3 years after her quite successful second album, Drastic Fantastic. Tiger Suit sticks with the style of that last album (as opposed to Tunstall’s debut album, Eye to the Telescope) in that it focuses on a poppier sound rather than the folk-influenced sound of Telescope. While it’s hard not to admit that Tunstall’s music has lost something in Tunstall’s larger musical transition, Tiger Suit has a good bit of its own charm. Still, lacking the freshness of either earlier album, it falls short of being a positive development in any direction.

What turns out to be the largest problem with Tiger Suit is that it uses up all of Tunstall’s creativity, expertise, subtlety, and well, everything else Tunstall boasts, during just the first few tracks. Now, those tracks are, to be fair, entirely sublime. But they also, unfortunately, put the entire rest of the album to shame. The musical quirks that ensnare the listener in the first three tracks simply aren’t there afterwards, and the occasional solid track in the middle of the album, most noticeably “Come On, Get In,” with its striking vocal unison sections, simply can’t make up for the general repetitive mediocrity of far too many tracks.

Of course, KT Tunstall does mediocrity rather well, as much sense as that makes. More accurately, there’s absolutely nothing on Tiger Suit that is particularly bad; everything is okay or better. But okay or better is not good, as the better is so good that it makes the okay seem bad. Or said with fewer vague adjectives, KT Tunstall is far too talented to have mismanaged such a large number of tracks. And while that might be judging Tunstall harshly because of how much we expect, it’s impossible to judge Tunstall any other way, given that there are samples of Tunstall’s perfection right on Tiger Suit.

All that said, KT Tunstall is a good singer, and the best parts of Tiger Suit – most notably, those that aren’t so over-produced as to change her fluid voice into a faintly monotonic tone – display that quite well. In those best sections, the energy and enthusiasm inherent to Tunstall’s voice show through beautifully, creating excellent resonance with the instrumental backing (as unimaginative as that backing can sometimes be.) Unfortunately, there are more than a few sections that aren’t nearly as successful. Those sections tend to abandon a pure vocal sound in favor of a “larger,” more seemingly dramatic sound – and they end up making Tiger Suit sound generic more than anything else.

Somewhat similarly, Tiger Suit‘s lyrics aren’t always especially interesting. Just as the album’s treatment of Tunstall’s vocals occasionally falls into pitfalls of genericness, so does Tiger Suit‘s writing from time to time become a good bit less than creative. Repetition certainly doesn’t help – “You change every day” only becomes more dull the fourth or fifth time it’s sung. Fortunately, Tiger Suit isn’t entirely generic. “Difficulty” (the same track responsible for “You change every day” ad nauseam) contains a bit of decent metaphor: “Making my way into places / Only been seen on your darkest days / Breaking my heart to take a walk / Into your jungle,” and there are other bits and pieces of decent writing across the album. It would, however, be nice if there were more of it.

All together, Tiger Suit is not the greatest album. It’s hard to criticize it too much, given that even at its worst, it’s really not all that bad, but it’s also difficult to praise it, given that, well, it doesn’t have too much that’s extremely praiseworthy. All in all, the utterly mediocre tracks control the album, leaving quite a bit to be desired. But Tunstall is still an extremely talented artist, and hopefully that will shine again in a future release.

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