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KT Tunstall sings pitch-perfect

Singers and celebrities often feel they must fit a mold to become popular or follow rules set by a manager or songwriter. Scottish pop artist, KT Tunstall, refuses to adhere to the status quo, but exudes her own personal style.

Tunstall’s addicting lyrics rocketed to popularity when American Idol finalist, Katherine McPhee, preformed “The Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” in a memorable episode of the singing competition.

Before her song’s fame in the U.S., Tunstall broke onto the UK’s music scene with her performance of “Black Horse” on Later with Jools Holland. She has sold over four million records, along with three BRIT awards and a Grammy nomination under her belt. Her popularity has spread from Scotland and England to the U.S.

Tunstall’s new album, Drastic Fantastic, released on Sept. 18, followed her debut 2004 project, Eye to the Telescope.

While Tunstall’s name is often associated with folk or pop music, she successfully combines many genres in her new project. From the somewhat rough “Hold On” to the country twang of “Hopeless”, her versatile voice will appeal to a varied audience.

In “Funnyman”, she sings about a man who tries to find depth and meaning in life, but will never be anything but funny. Tunstall combines a complex electric guitar chord structure with introspective tone and lyrics. The chorus remains soft but catchy, provoking me to hum along.

Tunstall adds to her soft, unassuming, but pitch-perfect voice by often writing her own pieces and playing lead guitar in her band. She presents herself as a genuine musician. While many celebrities only regurgitate what agents force down their throats, Tunstall stands out as an artist with a spine, an opinion and adaptable talent.

She illustrates this in “Hopeless”, an understated piece with a folksy and country feel. She plays the soft acoustic chords herself. However, the lyrics are a bit unclear: “I’m hopeless, everybody says it’s just another decay of the soul, but I know, I’m hopeless.”

Despite the somewhat cryptic words, the song has a contented individual feel. Although initially bored by it, I found myself growing to like its style.

While Drastic Fantastic covers many song subjects from break-ups to mild desperation in “Saving My Face”; many of the songs lack meaning. An understandable topic often eluded me, such as in “White Bird.” Tunstall sings, “White feathers dipped in tar/ I can’t see how old you are.”

These songs and lyrics are catchy and rhythmic, but often seem devoid of true depth.

The variety proved to be my favorite aspect of Tunstall’s sophomore project; each song causes a listener to glance back at their music player. They all present a new style and outlook, yet her soft, folksy voice remains throughout.

Instrumentation also became a shortcoming of the album. Excepting lovely flute undertones in the final track, “Paper Aeroplane”, Drastic Fantastic confines itself to guitar and drums. The addition of more instruments would add musical interest to the album.

Drastic Fantastic is available at Barnes and Noble. For online buying, check out Amazon.

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