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KT Tunstall – Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon album review

With KT Tunstall’s fifth studio album, Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon, the Scottish singer-songwriter presents us with her root-sy piece of soulful Americana and folk gold. Her 2005 break-out hit “Black Horse and a Cherry Tree” put KT on the map, though ever since she has been producing critically acclaimed records and building a large international fan base. The making of this new album, which was recorded in the desert scenery of Tuscan, Arizona, was divided into two sessions by major changes in KT’s personal life, including the sudden death of her father and the end of her marriage. This resulted in a release worthy of two titles. The folk elements shine throughout the entire album, while the later half comes off understandably more somber and reflective in mood.

Even from the opening plucking of strings and deep chords on “Invisible Empire,” you can feel KT reaching the soul of your heart. She sounds like a woman in her prime, the music seems to flow with ease. She croons “I’m gonna burn this house, I know I wanna jump into the fire, I’m gonna tear them down, pinnacles of my invisible empire” like a queen in the middle of a dilemma looking down from her castle towers. “Made of Glass” continues the fragile theme with an entrancing chorus. Well chosen reverb creates the perfect space as KT explores Americana sounds to include whistling.

Tunstall does not shy away from slow moving jams and provides the heart and soul to make each listen worthwhile. This slightly new style is curiously explored throughout the Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon saga. “Carried” sticks out with its  up-tempo and individual sound, especially with the intro and re-occuring riff. She beautifully states: “we all need somebody to teach us how to be carried.” A truth so wise it can send a shiver down your spine.

The folk sounds very pure on “Old Man Song,” a song which sounds like she dug it out of the sand in Arizona. The strings and piano on the “Yellow Flower” ballad act like a closer to the first half of the album. This is of course reminiscent of an old record, with two sides, which is evidentially an intentional effect.

As “Crescent Moon” opens the next chapter is revealed. Instrumentally tied loosely to the end of “Yellow Flower,” though separated by ominous effects and a brooding electric guitar break. She sings “waxing and waning” like they are her moods: on the up-side of a difficult time and then regressing back down. “Waiting on the Heart” has a sweet country twang and shows a welcomed return to the stronger side of her soul. The album feels confidently personal, KT courageously singing and writing from her innermost blood cells of her heart.

“Feel it All” displays a blues lead and a steady rock beat. Her last pre-chorus reads “cause our heart is on a wire, sitting pretty like a bird, But the hunter is hunting, And the eagle is us.” This beautiful imagery in the lyrics leads to a catchy, radio-friendly chorus. This song is a highlight and yet another example of KT’s open-hearted approach. “Chimes” could have been released in Venice, Italy and would probably still pass as authentic. Here KT Tunstall is obviously expanding the horizon of musical influences. “Honey Dew” follows a similar expansion, this time in the form of a ditty.

The album closer “No Better Shoulder” is plays its role perfectly. The lyrics as well as her delivery are dripping with an enlightening, somber beauty. There is a patient build throughout the fist half of the tune, leading to some bold, spaced-out effects and an increasingly frequent snare snap. Expert production and professionally performed music with the bold display of KT Tunstall’s soul on every track are the consistent themes throughout the Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon album. KT proves way more than is necessary on this incredible release, seeming to pull it off without even breaking a sweat. This calm, moving album is sure to be a fan favorite and absolutely sounds strong enough to pull in an award or two this year.

By John Hanson

John Hanson aka Johnny Rooftop is a musician and writer based in Boston. John has been focusing on his writing, performing, recording and sound engineering. Follow John on Twitter @johnnyrooftop, or visit john-hanson.com to stay up to date on all his projects.

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