Those who think of KT Tunstall as the upbeat, multi-layered, melodic, folk-pop single will be disappointed with her new album Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon. While much of that sound comprised her first three albums, it takes a second to remember that her first record Eye To The Telescope was beyond Suddenly I See and more into the realm of songs like Universe & You and Heal Over. Epic ballads that forged a journey with precise acoustics and production. Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon is a complete change of direction when looking at the trajectory from Telescope to Drastic Fantastic and Tiger Suit. One might have expected more acoustic+electro but instead is met with KT’s most stripped-down album yet.
In fact, the only real sound that might be reminiscent of previous familiar KT territory would be the first single Feel It All though not in its original form, rather the Band Jam version that shows up as a hidden track at the end of the disc. And even then, the single is a touch more bluesy than KT’s standard singles like Fade Like A Shadow or Hold On.
Mainly acoustic and mainly folk as she focuses on the death of her father and her divorce, both of which occurred in the same year and act as two focal points for the record. On How You Kill Me, KT sings of the ways in which she is broken down at the hands of the doomed relationship: “just as I sing like a bird you/you shoot me down for your fun.” Her vocals almost have a jazzy tone to them, as she sounds much more controlled than ever, having never given in. Chimes has an old school vibe with its melody. It sounds like a classic rock song compacted into an accordion ballad that seems to depict a funeral with the lines “stepping in beat/as if on repeat/reciting made up rhymes/slip stream flows/the west wind knows/inciting broken chimes.”
The album’s highlights are its bookends. Invisible Empire is a melancholy yet pleasant-sounding folk song that gives high hopes for what the other songs may deliver. Unfortunately, the album doesn’t reach the same height until the closing track No Better Shoulder, which is a lovely conclusion even if it contains only four lines. Despite death being final, the song finishes open-ended, on a high note, unfinished and with hope and determination but acceptance. “There’s no better shoulder/There’s no finer place/But one word of warning/You’ll never be replaced.”
Taking into consideration the direction KT could have taken with this album, the resulting choice of Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon is truly the optimal route as she sounds greater than ever. The downside is that the album lacks the distinctive melodies that KT has always been able to provide, even on her first album that isn’t too too distant from this one. The folk sound is one that comes natural to her but perhaps needs more exploration before she can truly flourish and shine once again.
1. Invisible Empire
2. Made Of Glass
3. How You Kill Me
5. Old Man Song
6. Yellow Flower
7. Crescent Moon
8. Waiting On The Heart
9. Feel It All
12. No Better Shoulder