when the black horse upgrades
I like those few CDs where you are content to click play on the CD player and let it run its course, start to finish. Put it on repeat? Sure, why not - 'cause it's that good. At last year's Austin City Limits, I was introduced to KT Tunstall. She was playing midday and my friend Tx was all about seeing her.
"KT Tunstall? Who?" I asked, a puzzled look on my face.
"Oh she sings that song 'Black Horse and the Cherry Tree'. I'm sure you've heard it," she replied. Hmmmm. I was sure I'd heard it at some point, but was drawing a blank. Since we had been switching off who chose the next stage to check out, I nodded in agreement and figured I'd give her setlist a try.
And boy I was not disappointed. Still a relative newcomer to the musical scene, KT had an instantaneous stage presence typically reserved for those who have long been on the concert circuit. Her brief exchanges with the audience were confident, serving to accentuate an absolutely fantastic setlist. Her stage set-up was simplistic - a few basic rugs and just her and her guitar, oh and her bare feet. I was hooked instantly. What was one of my first post-ACL purchases? That would be Eye to the Telescope, her first major release.
The bigger known cuts from her first album would definitely include "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" and "Suddenly I See", which has seemingly popped up all over from the recent movie The Devil Wears Prada to accompanying Meredith Gray's dancing in a poignant moment on Gray's Anatomy. The album has an interesting mix of pop/rock with bluesy overtones, and it works. My favorite from the album is "Through the Dark", the final haunting track focusing on the uncertainty of the future. The lyrics emphasize finding strength to make it through hard times where you just do not know if there's a reason to even expend energy hoping for what you feel you need.
When I saw on iTunes that KT had a new release slated for mid-September of this year, I did the pre-sale right away. And when iTunes wasn't showing it in my pending downloads the morning it was released, I was annoyed and found myself purchasing it - again. On the train ride up to NYC that evening, en route to my interview for the job I will be starting next Monday in Manhattan, I was again much impressed. Sophomore slump? Not here. Although I guess if you count in her live album, Accoustic Extravaganza, this release is technically number three.
I'd been addicted to Hold On since it was put up on MySpace. I remember listening to it one of the first days I was able to go without a cast after my broken foot and I quickly found myself dancing en route to the subway, just smiling back at those passing by gazing at my twitching feet. It's just one of those songs where you have to dance. It definitely serves as a strong and catchy first single track from the album, with energy comparable to KT's prior major singles, "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" and "Suddenly I See".
Drastic Fantastic has a mixture of the honesty of Eye to the Telescope with I think an edgy quality more prevalent in Accoustic Extravaganza. The bluesy element fades here, but the combination between pop and rock still remains - without any of the cliche sound often times classified as rock. There are albums with strong lyrics and there are those with fantastic melodies and interesting combinations of musical elements. Drastic Fantastic is solid on both accounts. It starts off on a powerful note with "Little Favours" and from there continues through a series of peaks and valleys, with the ultimate crescendo at "Hold On". Like Eye to the Telescope, Drastic Fantastic rounds out with the overall calmer yet still intinsive lyrics of "Someday Soon" and "Paper Aeroplane".
Lyrics in songs such as "If Only" and "I Don't Want You Now" show a unique balance between the sentiments of a strong and independent woman along with the occasional realities of those moments of doubt, captured especially well in my opinion in songs such as "Saving My Face". With Drastic Fantastic, KT has solidified she's a consistent entertainer who we'll be seeing more of in the years to come, for sure. I love Eye to the Telescope but in my opinion, Drastic Fantastic takes it up - a notch.
Check out KT's upcoming tour, including stops in the below cities:
- November 13 - Los Angeles, CA @ Avalon
- November 17 - Chicago, IL @ Vic Theatre
- November 21 - NYC, NY @ Roseland