The reputation of many a second record is well-documented in the frequent use of the cliche “sophomore slump.” However, though the title of Drastic Fantastic is a bit off, KT Tunstall’s new album, though not as immediately catching as her debut, is far from a slump of sorts.
The album is incredibly professional in the sense that this doesn’t seem like a second record, but an album of an established musician much further down the line. Indeed, with her first album, Eye to the Telescope, she carved out a niche for herself in today’s mainstream music scene that years ago was dominated by the Lilith Fair crowd. So the illusion that she’s a holdover from that age is not surprising. Her success though today is due to her ability to craft tight pop songs while at the same time balancing a songwriter’s sensibility. She knows what works for her and the work she put into consistently maintaining that balance is evident in Drastic.
The songs don’t catch you as immediately as in her first album, but they are of the sort that really improve upon a second or third listens. Songs like the opening number, “Little Favors,” “Funny Man,” “Hopeless” and “I Don’t Want You Now” are layered in production and detail, well thought-out, yet polished at the same time. The problem though is probably called to attention by the title of the album. This isn’t a real “drastic” change from her first album, which was built along the same lines. It is a good formula, but it feels too much like old-hat for Tunstall.
It’s not a bad thing that Drastic Fantastic is a continuation of the solid songwriting of Tunstall’s that makes her seem already like an oldie in the biz. It’s just not the exciting, new thing it claims to be. It’s a great listen, but nothing groundbreaking. Maybe that’s all we need from her.