Drastic Fantastic

If you don’t think there’s a difference between the U.S. and U.K. music charts consider that KT Tunstall outsold all other female acts in the U.K. in 2005 and won a coveted Brit Award for best solo female artist. She didn’t make a blip on our charts until her song “Suddenly I See” was used in the opening sequence of “The Devil Wears Prada.” Ah, that singer. Yes, KT’s album “Eye to the Telescope” featured lots of blues-infused rockers (“Black Horse and the Cherry Tree”) and thoughtful ballads but it took product placement to get her the attention she deserved.

Drastic Fantastic is the Scotswoman’s sophomore release and reflects the chaotic, wonderful, exhausting existence of a traveling musician portrayed in the CD artwork as a comic book heroine. While her debut disc showed influences of ‘60’s folk-rock styles this disc is much more oriented towards pop music that seems designed for radio airplay. That doesn’t mean that she’s exorcised her folk roots. “White Bird” is pure 70’s rock in the vein of Joni Mitchell and “Funnyman” features an undercurrent of strumming mandolins and acoustic guitar.

However, the tracks that are bound to get the most attention are the instantaneously catchy pop rockers. “Hold On” is the kind of song that will have pre-teens humming along with Mommy while listening to a CD they can compromise on. The same goes for the opening track “Little Favours” and “Hopeless” is the kind of ditty the Partridge Family could head-bob to.

The greatest area of growth between the two albums is Tunstall’s comfort level in the recording studio. Primarily Tunstall considers herself as a stage performer and her approach to this album was to regard the recording studio as another stage. The ballads feel intimate in a manner not apparent on her debut and there is a new live energy to the rest of the material.

KT Tunstall is a smart woman who has a talent for writing melodic pop songs. Although this record offers plenty of choices for “hit singles” it also offers smart, intricate arrangement. “The Beauty of Uncertainty” is a gorgeous multi layered song in both lyrically and musically. After years of honing her craft Tunstall has delivered a gem of a pop album that is so disarming you could easily forget the craft and years of experience that went into making it.

WYEP Afternoon Mix host Rosemary Welsch