As another year draws to an inevitable end, convention prescribes that we meditate, reflecting on the horde of events, current and private, that make up our full year. The advent of social media has turned this exercise a little more sensory and a little more definite, with algorithms that archive our holidays, parties, and milestones through photographed memories and commentary. And in the process, a soundtrack to document these moments can be a crucial element to the experience that is looking back.
KT Tunstall returned in the summer of 2013 with a record that may have disappointed some, but for others remained an exemplification of a talented lyricist and musician. Unlike her previous albums that always made a conscious attempt to include something a little more pop centered or electro, Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon confronts a context that is more heart-rending, absorbed with the ideas of mourn, loss, and death. Its result is a distillation of Ms. Tunstall’s musical nucleus: airy, beautiful, and hauntingly expansive.
The opening song of the record, “Invisible Empire” showcases Ms. Tunstall’s ability to croon softly, with a notable succession of repeatedly changing notes. Touching and introspective, it’s a perfect track to listen to when thinking of the past, present, and future.
“There’s No Better Shoulder” is a guitar-driven number with only one verse. “There’s no better shoulder, there’s no finer place, but one word of warning, you’ll never be replaced”, concentrically ripples alongside thrums of acoustic and electric guitars. The track focuses more on the passage of music through its 5 minutes and 27 seconds, crescendoing at the storm of sound created by the speed of which the instruments begin to interchange. Evocative of the Arizona landscape, where much of this album was recorded, the track is suggestive of the infinite horizons of desert, rims of canyons, red rocks, and cacti that define Ms. Tunstall’s emotional terrain. “How You Kill Me” is hard to forget. The cymbals and bass in this song alone are enough to send you into serious thought and consideration, pondering the fine line between love and hate.
Invisible Empire // Crescent Moon is not a dejected or apathetic collection of songs, but rather a demonstration of Ms. Tunstall’s delicious musical idiosyncrasies. And in the fullness of time one can realize the majesty of this record, where it becomes an ideal backdrop for looking back, reminiscing, and considering cathartically, the loss, triumph, and the numerous odds and ends that made up 2013.