Tuesday, 9 July 2019

KT Tunstall - Eye To The Telescope (2004)

Black horse and the cherry tree....


Released on 13 December 2004

Running time 45.54

I have only just "discovered" KT Tunstall, many years too late, so I am reviewing her work retrospectively. Before knowing her music I had pre-conceived her to be a typical 2000s singer-songwriter - earnest and acoustic and, if I am honest, a bit drippy. The truth turned out to be anything but that. Of her albums, however, this debut is the one that fits that particular bill more than the others, but only in places. It is certainly not an airy student bedsit album. As I read somewhere else, it  has many places where it is rocky in a Sheryl Crow style as opposed to a sleepy Dido ambience. For me, there are hints of Oasis around here and there, and latter-day Elvis Costello too, plus huge dollops of Americana.


1. Other Side Of The World
2. Another Place To Fall
3. Under The Weather
4. Black Horse And The Cherry Tree
5. Miniature Disasters
6. Silent Sea
7. Universe & U
8. False Alarm
9. Suddenly I See
10. Stoppin' The Love
11. Heal Over
12. Through The Dark                                        

Other Side Of The World starts as you might possibly expect - dreamy, wistful, acoustic vocal tones  and backing. This is how I thought the whole album would be. It breaks out half way through, though, into something more anthemic, electric, bassy and powerful. Another Place To Fall sees the full band kick in on a staccato, rhythmic groove that shows KT's voice off considerably. There is no doubt by now that Tunstall has a much stronger voice than many of her more wishy-washy contemporaries. It has character, versatility and charisma. This is a much harder-hitting, punchier track than the somewhat low-key opener. It has a great bass line too. The song has a distinctive, later era Elvis Costello-esque quality to its rhythm. Under The Weather returns to the reflective style of the first track with another sleepy, but beautifully sung, laid-back track. Black Horse And The Cherry Tree has an infectious Americana upbeat folky beat to it, something you could imagine Nathaniel Rateliff rocking up fifteen years down the line. It is another powerful vocal. Scottish Tunstall sounds as if she is straight out of the Mid-West on this.

Miniature Disasters has a quirky, appealing rhythm and another convincing, bluesy vocal. Silent Sea is a gentle, acoustic number that has hints of Paul McCartney about it, lyrically. Paul Weller, too, at times. Universe And U sees the full band return once more with a solid drums and keyboards sonorous, slow backing and KT's vocal is blues rock-ish in a US rock chick sort of way. There are hints of Oasis in this song's melody, delivery and structure, particularly the "miles away" bit of the lyrics. False Alarm continues in the same solid but slow paced Oasis-style rock ballad style with a vaguely jazzy, late night feel to it. All honest stuff.

Suddenly I See was the one Tunstall track I was slightly familiar with from its Radio Two standard popularity - "that was KT Tunstall, now it's time for "Popmaster"....and after that Jeremy Vine's with us". It is, however, a marvellously catchy number, packed full of verve and vitality with a singalong chorus. It was deservedly a hit. Apparently KT admits that over half her income has come from it. Stoppin' The Love  has a beat that reminds me of material from Elvis Costello's When I Was Cruel period. Once more, KT's voice is excellent - full, throaty and rasping but simultaneously soft and seductive. Heal Over keeps the trend of juxtaposition of a few lively numbers with a tender, thoughtful acoustic one going. It is sort of  Stevie Nicks meets Grace Potter, vocally. Yes, I know it was recorded a long time before Potter's work, but that is what it sounds like to me, listening in 2019.

Many is the album that ends with a song somewhat at odds with the tracks that had come before. This is also the case here as we get a stately, piano-driven Randy Newman-ish slow country blues/waltz of a ballad in Through The Dark. If anything, though, this excellent song helps to reiterate the fact that Tunstall is a most varied artist. This was a more than competent first album.


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