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KT Tunstall's new album reveals dark side

By Aaron Burnstein
On October 7, 2010

Today's word of the day is "folktronica". It sounds like what it is. Folktronica is a combination of folk and electronica, and it's what KT Tunstall is playing on her latest album, "Tiger Suit." Her penchant for sound loops makes a logical leap, resulting in a more direct combination between danceable synths, and the earthy folk-pop of her previous material. Despite the more prominent use of electronics, "Tiger Suit" is a surprisingly organic listen.

The bands that identify with the folktronica genre are extemely diverse. Folktronica may imply the glitchy, cerebral freak folk groups like Animal Collective, but in KT Tunstall's hands, it's a far more accessible style. Tunstall is essentially a pop musician, and understands how to make engaging music without alienating the listener through excessive experimentation.

Overall, the album works quite well. The samples are diverse, ranging from glitch to ambient to straight-up dance pop. Layered alongside acoustic instrumentation and seamlessly held together by Tunstall's smoky vocals, the compositions simply fall into place. Save for a few filler tracks, the songs are catchy, energetic,and classy.

But perhaps the album's best moments are when KT Tunstall reveals a certain gothic charm with tracks like "Golden Frames" and "Madame Trudeaux." It's not a style she's particularly known for, but Tunstall shows that she's capable of a dark, bluesy swagger that would feel just as at home in works by PJ Harvey or Nick Cave.

Still, Tunstall's strength as a musician shines in her mastery of both worlds. The combination of folk and electronic in various songs is certainly well accomplished, but the album also manages to include some more straight-up electronic tracks like "Glamour Puss" alongside straight-up folk tracks such as "The Entertainer." Tunstall's ability to retain the album's cohesion is an impressive feat.

The main idea behind folktronica is combining something familiar with something different. Similarly, when it comes to great music, artists are required to walk a fine line between diversity and individuality. It's a challenge that KT Tunstall tackles with style and taste. Tiger Suit contains unique elements, but still retains a warm familiarity that listeners are sure to find appealing.


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