"Nature techno" is the way Scotland's KT Tunstall describes the sound on her third studio album, Tiger Suit. As such, she helps characterize the essential dichotomy that has long defined her music: rooted in folk, laced with pop savvy, bristling with a taut rock 'n' roll fever threatening to spike at any moment. The new songs still seem to grow out of her acoustic guitar, while her perceptive lyrics go beyond the travails of love to plumb the fundamental struggles of life. What sets Tiger apart from Tunstall's previous work is its integration of dance rhythms and shadings of electronica, adding shimmering textures to the material's earthy, organic core, while her mastery of cunning hooks and intrepid spirit still turn more than her share into irresistible anthems. "Push That Knot Away," for instance, rides an insistent disco beat most of the way through, but Tunstall's underlying noirish acoustic guitar and a prominent fuzzy bass make the pulse human, pumping urgency into her message of confronting one's fears. Similarly, "Uumannaq Song" ties a Cyndi Lauper-like chorus to sleek funk rhythms amid hints of U2 atmospherics while Tunstall juxtaposes her own raw vocals with girl-group uh-uh-ohs. Even a much more understated ballad like "(Still a) Weirdo" floats on an effervescent synth sea. Throughout, Tunstall is at her sassy, exuberant best, playing with the spirit of a Chrissie Hynde, putting these infectious nuggets with their familiar yet deliciously different elements together on her own terms and having a blast doing so. Opening will be Hurricane Bells, a Steve Shiltz side project that got a big boost from landing a tune ("Monsters") on the soundtrack of the New Moon vampire flick. 18+.
Thu., Nov. 18, 8 p.m., 2010