KT Tunstall – Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon (2013)
The moment you hear the first tentative, gentle bars of opening song, “Invisible Empire”, you know that this, her fourth full studio album, is going to be something different from Kate. I was a huge admirer of her début album, “Eye To The Telescope” but felt that each subsequent album had less to offer than the previous, so my expectations were lower for this release. The sad loss of her Father and the break-up of her marriage, however, have provided (I’m sure, unwanted) material for an album full of painfully emotional lyrics and a more stripped down, vulnerable sound. KT’s vocals are very prominent throughout, being the main instrument on this album and it’s clear that she has some important things she needs to express. It would be difficult to categorise this album as there are elements of folk and jazz, but it has most definitely not been written to appeal to the pop mainstream. This is a carefully sculpted piece of art which requires your full attention to gain full appreciation of, not something that should be relegated to background music whilst you carry on with other tasks.
This is a remarkably good, honest album, with a depth and maturity to the writing that you could argue has only been occasionally present in Tunstall’s previous work and there are many notable performances. “Made Of Glass” is a truly beautiful track that anybody who has suffered heartbreak can relate to with lyrics such as, “I’m tired of thinking of you/each and every minute I see something I know that you’d love” which ends with a Andrew Bird’s mellifluous whistling. “How You Kill Me” continues that theme, of someone’s life and dream being crushed by a relationship and “Yellow Flower” is such an emotionally affecting and gorgeously melodic piece, surely about coping with the imminent passing of a loved one. “Waiting On The Heart” has a very grand, cinematic feel to it, “Feel It All” manages to convey the raw, heightened state of somebody assessing their emotions after dramatically life-changing events and “Honeydew” is as lovely as the title suggests, being a subtly beauteous ode to love. “No Better Shoulder” is a bitter-sweet end to a rather fine album and the haunting guitars perfectly mirror the haunted theme of the words. The bonus track, a full band “jam” version of “Feel It All” is rather good indeed, boasts a moody but satisfying guitar solo and is the song most likely from this set to receive radio play.
There is a certain weight to the claims that this is KT Tunstall’s best album yet, however, it really shouldn’t be forgotten just how superb her début was. They’re such different pieces of work that it is extremely difficult to compare the two and it’s probably a waste of effort attempting to. My opinion is that “Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon” is, without doubt, her most accomplished piece of work and, whilst it doesn’t have the huge, infectious songs that made “Eye To The Telescope” such a runaway success, it has a more powerful emotional pull than anything she has ever released before. I’m not writing “Drastic Fantastic” or “Tiger Suit” off, incidentally, they are both decent albums, but both didn’t compare favourably in the shadow of her immense début. Pleasingly, KT has now created a piece of work which not only compares, but creates debate amongst fans as to which is better. I think that alone should tell you just how good this album is – I’m only sorry that she had to go through so much in her life to write these exquisitely painful but beautifully human songs.