KT Tunstall's Acoustic Extravaganza
This Scottish singer-songwriter's left-field success was one of the most pleasant surprises of 2006. This unfussy collection, while not billed as the "follow-up" to her debut, Eye to the Telescope, furthers that disc's vibe with flair. While three of the tracks on Acoustic Extravaganza -- notably a chopped-and-channeled version of "Miniature Disasters" -- are revamped Eye to the Telescope cuts, the majority of its songs were recorded in a whirlwind session on the bucolic Isle of Skye earlier this year. As the title indicates, this is a low-key affair, rife with plucked strings and warming washes of organ -- elements that Tunstall works into an ever-changing set of sonic moods. She waxes ethereally playful on the subtly insistent "Girl and the Ghost," which chugs along like something Ray Davies might've penned circa Village Green, and gets a bit earthier on the burnished "Boo Hoo," which parlays intricate instrumental interplay into a late-night mood reminiscent of the Band's earlier work. Tunstall's natural charisma surfaces again and again here, most vividly in the way she doesn't break stride when she interrupts the gently loping "Ashes" -- a song that grafts a swinging jazziness to Tunstall's trademark folk structures -- to toss off the aside "f**k you little princess, who the hell do you think you are?" The smile on her face is palpable in her tone of voice, and it's a smile that proves contagious throughout the disc. The package is rounded out by a DVD chronicling the making of Acoustic Extravaganza, as well as live concert footage and Tunstall's wry commentary on how she discovered -- and how she employs -- the loop-making "Wee Bastard Pedal" that enhances so many of her songs.