Artist: KT Tunstall
On the second album in her "soul, body, and mind" trilogy, KT Tunstall has created an invigorating set of guitar driven music that blends pop’s appeal with rock’s attitude.
The Scottish singer focuses on the body, exploring self-image and the complexities of physicality in this 11-track collection that was co-produced by former Franz Ferdinand guitarist Nick McCarthy and Sebastian Kellig, and features guitar-ing by Charlotte Hatherley.
Wax uses each song as a vessel for expression. From the stomping opener ‘Little Red Thread’ to the gentle closer ‘Tiny Love’, Tunstall creates a confident, complex record, playing with different tempos and textures, often to engaging effect. While the album loses some momentum towards the middle with more typical tunes like ‘Dark Side of Me’ and ‘Poison in Your Cup’, it never ceases to be enjoyable. At its best, Wax is an irresistible showcase of Tunstall’s soulful voice and songwriting skills. Energetic rocker ‘The Healer’ and emancipation anthem ‘The River’ rank among her most infectious songs to date.
Highlights: ‘The River’, ‘The Healer (Redux)’, ‘The Mountain’
Artist: Jess Glynne
Album: Always In Between**1/2
Jess Glynne started her music career by conquering the pop charts with her vibrant and soulful but altogether generic debut album I Cry When I Laugh (2015). She returns with more of the same in her sophomore attempt Always In Between, another collection of radio friendly tunes engineered to seamlessly find a home on mainstream charts.
The English songstress doesn’t stray from the sound that previously brought her massive success and opts to stick to her speciality, creating catchy, enjoyable ditties akin to the hits that helped cement her place as one of Britain’s favourite artists. But in sticking to the same old formula, the singer misses the chance to come up with something interesting or exciting.
The primary issue with this 12 song-set is that there simply isn’t much variety or variation here. You’ve mostly got upbeat anthems (like the synth-pop proclamation of support ‘I’ll Be There’ and the uplifting offering of gratitude for unconditional love ‘All I Am’) as well as the occasional ballad (the guitar-driven ‘Thursday’) and the album closer (‘Nevermind’). Other than a couple of highlights - primarily the second single ‘All I Am’ and the sassy ‘Rollin’’ - these tracks aren’t as contagious as you’d hope.
The lyrics - all co-written by Glynne with the help of different songwriters - are cliché ridden, sometimes painfully so. And the album is largely devoid of personality. This is serviceable, inoffensive pop music. But it’s also forgettable and disappointingly bland. A voice as distinctive as Glynne’s shouldn’t be wasted on songs this indistinctive.
Highlights: ‘All I Am’, ‘Rollin’’
Artist: Carrie Underwood
Album: Cry Pretty***
Since winning American Idol in 2005, Carrie Underwood has established herself as America’s biggest female country pop singer, and she has no intention of abandoning her throne with her sixth album, Cry Pretty, yet another set of power ballads designed to please her fans.
The singer shows no inclination to step out of her comfort zone or try anything new on these 13 tracks, all but one of which she has co-produced with musician David Garcia. Underwood has mastered the formula for commercial success in her genre and reproduces it here, seemingly effortlessly, to yield predictable results. There are occasional, benign tinges of R&B on tracks like ‘Drinking Alone’ and ‘End Up with You’, but nothing ground breaking or even mildly exciting ever arrives.
The singer has proved time and again that she can convincingly deliver powerful emotional ballads; weepy songs like ‘Low’ and ‘Spinning Bottles’ really do work well here. But there is nothing innovative about anything she does on this record. Her style remains largely monochromatic and there isn’t much variation in her voice and delivery from song to song.
As for the promised political commentary on the supposedly anti-gun ‘The Bullet’ and ‘Love Wins’, the sentiments here are too tepid to be effective. The singer never dares to express any controversial opinion, instead offering generic tales of sorrow and calls for harmony.
Much of Cry Pretty sounds impersonal, and all of it sounds unexceptional. This is middle of the road country pop, immaculately produced and competently sung. If you’ve liked her previous albums, then you’ll like this one as well. But if you’re not a fan, then there’s nothing here that will change your mind.
Highlights: ‘Low’, ‘Spinning Bottles’, ‘Love Wins’