sun 31/05/2020

CD: KT Tunstall - Wax | reviews, news & interviews

CD: KT Tunstall - Wax

CD: KT Tunstall - Wax

Sometimes the middle of the road is no bad place to be...

It's a little hard to compliment KT Tunstall without seeming a little snitty. Her music is familiar, it's grown-up, it's Radio 2, it's full of lashings of Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, The Pretenders, Springsteen, Nashville, Laurel Canyon.

It's a little hard to compliment KT Tunstall without seeming a little snitty. Her music is familiar, it's grown-up, it's Radio 2, it's full of lashings of Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, The Pretenders, Springsteen, Nashville, Laurel Canyon. The closest this album really comes to modernity of sound is a little dose of Goldfrapp's glam-pop-synth-rock in the odd track like “Human Being”, and even that of course is heavily indebted to the 1980s and a very classicist songwriting style. Her voice sounds older than her years, husky and lived-in, and always has done; lyrically she can touch on bitterness, loss and sorrow and somehow feel comforting. All the best qualities of her music – the qualities that earn her Ivor Novello awards and Grammys – are also the most middle of the road.

But you know, sometimes that is no bad place to be. On her sixth album, Tunstall sails so close to the ultra-mainstream wind, so close to the generic, that you could find yourself steeling yourself against your expectation of some horribly overblown chorus or crunching US radio overcompression in the production. She even comes within a Rizla's thickness of doing that hiccupping tonal catch that a billion winsome singer-songwriters have done in the wake of The Cranberries and The Corrs. 

But she constantly stops just short of actually doing the terrible thing; and though every element is familiar, she constantly stops just short of pastiche. All of which adds up to a display of extraordinary judgement, occasionally drifting by but just as often grabbing you with its sweet hooks and harmonies. And on a couple of listens, you find these songs really get under your skin. It's a perfectly timed release too: as it coasts down to earth on the final tracks “The Night That Bowie Died” and “Tiny Love”, you could hardly ask for a better listen for those first nights of putting the heating on as autumn sets in. See – that set off your cynicism, didn't it? Comfort listening is bland, right? Well, no. No it's not. Give it a try.

@joemuggs

 

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