It has often been suggested that you cannot create ‘good’ art without pain. Hard times supposedly breed creativity in artists. This certainly seemed to be the case with KT Tunstall’s last studio album, 2013’s ‘Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon’, which saw Tunstall reeling from several personal crises. The result was a creative coup for the artist who delivered a spectacular collection of sombre, folk-inspired songs which took an honest look at the very real difficulties of coping with loss. But for every yin, there must be a yang.
Her latest release ‘KIN’, proves that the old adage about pain and creativity may not necessarily be true. After pain often comes recovery, and then rebirth. Having previously stated in interviews that “as an artist I feel like I died”, ‘KIN’ represents the revival of Tunstall’s creative spirit. It is a confident reminder of what it means to be a popstar.
It is album with a clear, if not slightly overstated, message. Here I am, she seems to say. This is me. The songs act as a personal memoir chronicling what she has learned during the past number of years. Tunstall has never sounded so defiantly happy, and strong. The songs are full of positive vibes and upbeat sing alongs. Even the album cover is an explosion of colour and razzmatazz.
Opening track Hard Girls jumps headlong into a peppy chorus. Straight to the point, then. This is the first of many tracks that elicit involuntary responses from the listener. It sometimes feels as though you are already singing the chorus without necessarily being familiar with the song. The songs take root….fast. The same can be said of the irresistible Maybe It’s A Good Thing and Evil Eye, the latter having a sound and energy that would have felt right at home on what this reviewer believes to be her best creative work ‘Tiger Suit’.
Once you reach the albums battlecry It Took Me So Long To Get Here (But Here I Am), lyrically the album starts to feel a little repetitive. Perhaps just a little too direct, some of the lyrics sound unnuanced in comparison to previous albums. However, the energy behind these songs largely dispels these concerns because, like it or not, you are too busy singing along in the car to notice.
While the album is exploding with positivity and joy, it is actually in the more laid back, reflective moments that the real gems can be found. Tracks such as the album’s namesake KIN and Turned A Light On seem to invoke thoughts of friends and family. It is a reminder of the comforts of having a support system during tough times, and these songs are an engaging tribute to anyone who was ever kind enough to lend a helping hand to someone in need. Throw a tender duet with James Bay entitled Two Way into the mix and the package is complete.
Tunstall truly puts a lot of herself into her music, and this album along with its predecessor act as two-part series. Two sides of the same coin. Yin and yang. Joy and sorrow. She has come full circle and has rediscovered her niche as a recording artist, which has resulted in a fun and intoxicating record.