Part good, part typical, but nothing too ‘fantastic’

Joe Shearer

In 2006, Scottish singer-songwriter K.T. Tunstall brought a much-needed adrenaline shot to female folk-rock with her sassy single, “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.” Although her platinum-selling debut album, Eye to the Telescope, didn’t offer much else in that regard, it did set the stage for her sophomore effort, Drastic Fantastic.

Instead of low-key browns and grays usually adorning this genre’s CD covers, Drastic Fantastic boasts stark black and white, featuring Tunstall wearing a short, white dress, rocking out a flashy, Firebird bass guitar. Even the title promises something different.

And so the album begins appropriately with “Little Favours,” a darker tune that goes into a lush, vocal chorus sure to grab the listener’s attention. Tunstall slows it down a bit and takes her vocal layering to the heavens in the dreamy, pop gem, “If Only.” This song would fit nicely closing out a high school dance in one of those sappy, teen soap operas.

Unfortunately, Tunstall falls back on the typical acoustic rock we’ve all heard before with tracks like “White Bird” and “Hopeless,” while others (“Beauty of Uncertainty”) are just plain boring. About half the record isn’t necessarily bad so much as all too familiar.

Perhaps the highlight of the album is the very cool first single, “Hold On,” which is reminiscent of “Black Horse” in edginess, but manages to save itself from being a cheap copy with its quick beat and Tunstall’s varying vocal delivery; at times she’s snappy, but the performer knows when to drag lines such as, “Searching the land for a hero of a man.” Written about a lover who can’t seem to get past the small things, the Scot belts out, “Hold on to what you’ve been given lately / Hold on because the world will turn if you’re ready or not.”

Other standouts on the album include the disco-esque “Saving Face” and punkish “I Don’t Want You Now,” which starts out not too different from the Jam’s “That’s Entertainment.”

Tunstall said watching the movie Sin City helped inspire her choice of album title because of its lavish style and settings. But while Drastic Fantastic may be neither drastic nor fantastic, it does offer an experience worth checking out.

Contact all correspondent Joe Shearer at [email protected].