KT Tunstall: Wax Album Review

Story posted October 12, 2018 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Scott Perdue

The bold Scottish singer/ songwriter, KT Tunstall, is back with her 6th studio album, Wax, which is the second installment in a trilogy of albums focusing on spirit, body, and mind. Beginning with the fairly well received 2016 album Kin, Tunstall has been narrowing her focus and songwriting on more humanistic concepts in her recent musical pursuits. This album, focusing specifically on the body, attempts to explore human frailty and weaknesses, while also displaying its strength and resilience. 

Creating a huge splash with her debut album, Eye to The Telescope, back in 2004, Tunstall effectively entered the pop mainstream with her huge hits, “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” and “Suddenly I See”. Her music has been used in multiple films and tv shows, notably 2006’s Devil Wears Prada. Despite receiving droves of critical success, Tunstall felt her musical direction was out of her control with her debut. She has since been able to gain more of a voice and a less limited artistic license and has begun a process of almost entirely independent songwriting. Wax exhibits a far more focused and in control Tunstall with a clear direction of where her music is heading.

Departing from her predominant use of acoustic guitar and piano on her debut, Tunstall almost entirely utilizes electric guitar for the eleven tracks on Wax. Beginning with the roaring and upbeat, “Little Red Thread”, Tunstall drags the listener in with her self-conscious exploration of fate and life’s many shared connections. Utilizing a far more charged sound than her other albums, Tunstall effectively creates captivating sonic backgrounds behind her biting lyrics. The next track, “Human Being” is a unique exhibition of Tunstall’s interesting and detailed songwriting. She is able to display her perspectives on human limitations that feels fresh and interesting. The main single of the album, “The River” has all the qualities of a mainstream pop song, but lacks that edge that her debut hit, “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” had that really made it memorable and impactful.

The next two subsequent tracks are in their own right cohesive to the album and are fairly decent. However, the album doesn’t pick back up its energy until the revealing and dynamic, “Dark Side of Me” and “Poison in Your Cup” which although slowed down, pack a far more interesting and memorable punch. The next two tracks, “Backlash and Vinegar” and “In This Body” are also able to keep up Tunstall’s strong traction on the album and are really able to hit at her goal of exploring the body’s imperfections. The following track, “The Night That Bowie Died” isn’t necessarily the tribute song it sounds like it should be, but is more so a somewhat ineffective hinged metaphorical statement to how an individual reacts similarly to how they had when they heard Bowie passed. The final song of the album, “Tiny Love” in a similar fashion to “The River” has all the right components of making an effective pop song, but falls short of being an impactful closing.

While the album has its missteps, it is nice to see that Tunstall feels far more in control of her musical direction. The album is effectively and innovatively able to explore the often focused on concepts of the body and its faults in a way that feels new and exciting. A very interesting addition to Tunstall’s discography and the Kin trilogy, the choice of a predominantly electric guitar album is very effective although it is a massive jump from her debut’s more contemporary style. Although it isn’t as noteworthy as her debut, Wax effectively proves that while Tunstall is departing from her original style, she hasn’t lost her unique musical talent.

Rating: 7/10


Scott Perdue is a sophomore majoring in film/video. To contact him, email rsp5246@psu.edu.