Album Review: KT Tunstall – KIN

By on Friday, 14th October 2016 at 12:00 pm
 

KT Tunstall KIN album coverIt’s crazy to think that it’s been over 10 years since KT Tunstall released her debut album ‘Eye to the Telescope’, which I remember playing pretty much non-stop for months on end. Shortly after its release, Tunstall was nominated for a number of BRIT Awards, bagging Best British Female in 2006, before being nominated for a Grammy in 2007. Since then, the Scottish singer/songwriter has released a further four albums, the latest of which is ‘KIN’, which Tunstall shared earlier this month.

Musically, Tunstall has explored a variety of genres since she first appeared on the scene, such as on 2013’s folk / acoustic ‘Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon’. But her latest work embraces vibrant pop sounds and feel-good hits. The album comes after Tunstall took a break from writing and recording albums to work on composing music for the film industry. Tunstall moved out to Los Angeles to work on music for movies such as Winter’s Tale and Disney’s Million Dollar Arm, before embarking on a small tour of the U.S. in 2015. She worked with Tony Hoffer (The Kooks, The Fratellis) on ‘KIN’ in a L.A. studio.

It’s inevitable that, after such swift success so young, all of Tunstall’s later musical feats would be compared to her debut album. ‘KIN’, whilst being more polished compared to the raw gritty pop of ‘Eye to the Telescope’, is still a solid fifth album for the Scot. Many tracks are much simpler lyrically than her past work, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that Tunstall has gone for something different with ‘KIN’. Every artist should have the space to explore and challenge musically, and it feels that Tunstall has certainly been influenced by her move to the States. She’s compared writing ‘KIN’ to the process of writing her debut: “carefree, unselfconscious, writing music because I enjoyed it”, and being in L.A. particularly helped her to “recalibrate [her] relationship with being a musician”. There’s an ambience to ‘KIN’ that feels decidedly ‘L.A.’ I haven’t visited the City of Angels myself, but the upbeat, acoustic pop that bedecks each track on ‘KIN’ makes me feel like I could be hanging out on Venice Beach with my surfboard. There’s something about the chilled acoustic notes mixing with Tunstall’s throaty tones and buoyant drumbeats that fit with my impression of the L.A. aesthetic.

The whole album is highly accessible. ‘It Took Me So Long To Get Here, But Here I Am’ not only boasts one of the longest song title I can think of, but is one of those life-affirming and motivating songs that make you reflect on where you’re at and acknowledge that there’s always hope. Lyrics like “but it made way for something different / I could feel it in the air” and “everything I tried and all the things I dreamed of” will appeal to anyone who’s had an aspiration and felt like giving up, but somehow had the will to keep going.

Then there’s ‘Two Way’, a duet with James Bay, who also cowrote the song. The track has softly grating electric and gently strummed acoustic guitars, paired with Tunstall and Bay’s complementary vocals. It’s got a very chilled out vibe and is a nice contrast to the quicker-paced songs on the album. ‘Evil Eye’ is one of those upbeat tracks, with lyrics proclaiming self-belief: “you want me to be more like you / but you’re never gonna get your way”. Tunstall sings about self-worth on ‘Evil Eye’, refusing to let the judgment of others get her down.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LULB8jXdaoc[/youtube]

Another favourite is ‘Run on Home’, a buoyant track that in 4 minutes and thirty seconds tells the story of finding self-worth and feels like a love letter to the self. The lyrics “the only thing I’ve noticed / is that I’ve been feeling happier lately” seem to sum up the sentiment of ‘KIN’, which plays like the manifesto of a woman who has cast off some baggage and finally feels alive.

‘KIN’, whilst not breaking any new ground, certainly conveys the Tunstall’s new carefree attitude. You might find yourself skipping over a couple of tracks, but for fans of Tunstall’s previous work or of easy-going pop, it’s worth a listen.

7.5/10

KT Tunstall’s fifth album ‘KIN’ is out now on Virgin EMI. She’s currently touring in the States until early October, before heading back to the UK in late October/ early November. For a run-down of all her live shows, visit her official Web site. http://kttunstall.com/live To read past coverage of the Scottish singer/songwriter on TGTF, use this link.

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