[Rating: 2.5 stars]
The bouncing country blues vibe of Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall has, for the most part, all but gone. Tiger Suit wears a different skin than her previous recordings, and the highs and lows are obvious. Some blues still rocks and rolls beneath certain tracks, but it’s masked by ’80s percussion, synthy pop and dance beats that sound like they should be backing a hit, but with a tendency to irritate.
“Uummannaq Song” starts things off on an exotic foot, with tribal backing vocals and the snap of an ’80s beat that carries into “Glamour Puss,” in which Tunstall again flaunts her talent for profiling a lovely lady (bringing to mind her 2005 hit “Suddenly I See” off of Eye To The Telescope). Her old style resurfaces in “Push That Knot Away” in which Tunstall combines a dance vibe with country blues and her trademark full-bodied bellow (and at 2:20 it breaks down into a wicked beat). Then it’s back to all-dance with a distorted little riff in “Difficulty” that’s like a poppy, off-key version of Radiohead’s “The National Anthem.” Tunstall sings, “You change every day/how can I tell you the truth when I don’t want to.” Hmm. Sounds like something Keane would say. “Fade Like a Shadow” is the first U.S. single and quite the annoying pop song, but “Golden Frames” is a redemptive track in which the grit and blues returns over dark, honeyed vocals. Male and Female voices join together to make one bad and dirty song, in the vein of Raising Sand’s “Rich Woman.” On “(Still a) Weirdo,” the lovely Tunstall tries to convince us of her oddball nature: “optimistic but never quite elegant/still a weirdo after all these years.”
Though by now it’s established that Tunstall can pen a song and certainly make a hit, there’s nothing on Tiger Suit that makes a lasting impact. In spite of careful production and an abundance of catchy rhythms, the album averages out to a mediocre work of confused genres, and the good songs are in the minority. They all have a beat you can move to, but you won’t remember it when the dance is over.