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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