KT TUNSTALL: A Guide through her Universe. PART TWO: “Eye to the Telescope”

Launched from her previous world by wishing, waiting and a record deal with Virgin Records, KT Tunstall breaks into the mainstream with her major label debut Eye to the Telescope  – an album which I find unceasingly stimulating.

Now, I can’t say for sure how much of my love for this album comes as a result of it being the first album of hers that I owned, but what I can say is that it’s still one of my favourites. It’s on this album that we saw the KT the world knows come to life as she, backed by the band she could now afford to employ, did what she did best and continued to explore herself through the music she makes.

Sporting a notably more mature voice, peppered with a bit of a rasp, she bleeds through the speakers as she takes the listener on a self-reflexive journey, not once losing control of the now layered and studio-driven mix of sound. Only four years after her previous release, Tunstall seems a decades more experienced musician as she handles the sound with a gravitas that never seems to wane – which is fortunate because this album is a much more complex examination of self than her previous work.

I find that what sets this album apart from so many studio debuts is that many albums released by new artists will seemingly try to give the listener what they are expecting – to slot into what’s already out there – almost as if there’s a formula for what makes a good debut; the production of music that looks out. On this record, I find that Tunstall ignores those stereotypes and lets the listener look inward, much like the way Joni Mitchell did on a record like Blue”. Ignoring the kind of ostentatious attitude that pop expects, she openly and honestly shares a relatable dissonance with her audience and proves that she’s a human artist, with human feelings. In this collection, there’s no attempt to elevate herself above the human experience, rather, like the great folk writers of the 60’s and 70’s, she lets the listener see her naked; exploring the nuances of her emotion and not underplaying the complexity of feeling any transient body experiences while undergoing a shift of milieu.

Surrounded by strikingly different variables, as a result of not only ageing but the new expectations placed upon her, Tunstall sings of her confusion throughout this album. Openly and unashamedly she attempts to plot herself in relation to all that which surrounds her; singing about needing to “find the controls”and the necessity that she “be [her] own master”. On this album, KT is considering what her moves should be as she addresses all the factors that weigh on her mind: her feelings toward love (however dissonant they may be), her feelings about certain friendships, her feelings about herself as an artist and her trepidation at pursuing all of these paths, unsure of what their outcomes will be.

In the end, Tunstall doesn’t come up with an answer to the questions that burn throughout the album’s 12-track sequence, and I think that that’s what makes the album so respectable: she doesn’t lie. She only expresses herself as fully as she is able, and a lot of the time that comes down to how she handles specific situations with which she is confronted: when a friend is feeling sad in “Heal Over”  she finds that she is able to comfort her, when Tunstall feels scared of commitment in “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree” , she goes with the impulse to run away that that moment creates, but later when a new love comes along in “Stoppin’ the Love’ she, for some reason, opens herself up again. This record is all about how she felt in a thousand different moments, how dissonant her reactions to things are and how that is indicative of just how transitory her space throughout the writing of this record was.

Despite this, however, the album has some moments in which we hear hyper-secure KT, moments in which, despite all her trepidation, we’re allowed to tap into her most apparent and transcendental common thread: her longing to grow into the artist she wants to be. Declaiming her purpose in “Suddenly I See”, as she sings about Patti Smith on the cover of Horses, we hear KT in moment of clarity as she rediscovers her raison de’tre:

“Suddenly I see, this is what I wanna be.

Suddenly I see, why the hell it means so much to me.”

–  “Suddenly I See”, Eye to the Telescope, Track 11.

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It is moments like these ones, coupled with the rest of the album’s feeling of transience that makes the whole picture of a growing Tunstall come to life so perfectly as she sings from the other side of the world, like a monolith in the making.

The album’s last track is Through the Dark”, a track that seats itself down quietly at the end of a chapter. She sings:

“And I used to talk

With honest conviction

Of how I predicted my world.

I”m gonna leave it to stargazers.

Tell me what your telescope says.

 Oh, what is in store for me now?

It’s coming apart.

 I know that it’s true.

’cause I’m feeling my way through the dark.”

 -“Through the Dark“, Eye to the Telescope, Track 13.

 I think that binds the album together perfectly – the concession to a mode of self-discovery that only time can achieve. Tunstall leaves the collection enlightened and leaves the listener excited about just what she’ll next bring to the table.

 

 Favourite Tracks:

“Heal Over”

“Stoppin’ the Love”

“Black Horse & a Cherry Tree”

“Suddenly I See”

 

 Favourite Lyrics:

“And I used to talk

With honest conviction

Of how I predicted my world.

I”m gonna leave it to stargazers.

Tell me what your telescope says.” 

– “Through the Dark”, Eye to the Telescope.


Be sure to check back next week when this article series takes a look at the mellow and folky Acoustic Extravaganza.

Listen to “Black Horse & a Cherry Tree” and “Stoppin’ the Love” from Eye to the Telescope below.

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: KT TUNSTALL: A Guide through her Universe. PART THREE: “KT Tunstall’s Acoustic Extravaganza” - SA Music Scene

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