MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Finally, this hour, a review of new CDs from two of the most successful new musicians of the past few years. James Blunt and KT Tunstall have both delivered their much-anticipated second albums. Blunt's work is called "All the Lost Souls." Tunstall's is titled "Drastic Fantastic."
Here's our critic, Tom Moon.
TOM MOON: When release dates for the big fall records were announced over the summer, I couldn't help but notice James Blunt and KT Tunstall were hitting stores on the same day. This is proving time for two singer-songwriters who became sensations when they first appeared. You know Blunt. He made a name for himself with that ubiquitous prom song, "You're Beautiful."
(Soundbite of song "You're Beautiful")
Mr. JAMES BLUNT (Singer): (Singing) You're beautiful. You're beautiful. You're beautiful. It's true.
MOON: KT Tunstall snuck up on people. After her debut, "Eye to the Telescope," was released here in 2006, her song "Suddenly I See" was used in the opening in the film "The Devil Wears Prada" and on the hit TV series "Grey's Anatomy."
(Soundbite of song "Suddenly I See")
Ms. KT TUNSTALL (Singer): (Singing) Suddenly I see. Suddenly I see. This is what I want to be. Suddenly I see…
MOON: Both Blunt and Tunstall sold millions, which means that now, they face a degree of pressure to prove that their breakthrough albums were not flukes.
(Soundbite of song "All the Lost Souls")
Mr. BLUNT: (Singing) I'm not calling for a second chance. I'm screaming at the top of my voice.
MOON: Let's be blunt. He's a fluke - pleasant, well meaning, but a one-hit wonder all the same. Okay, sure, Blunt's new CD has a couple of mildly interesting devotional anthems, but his songs feel blank inside. He's all craft where the heart should be.
MOON: KT Tunstall writes earnest pop songs, too, but she's not quite so prissy. The cover of her new disc shows her in a white miniskirt and boots, playing a glittering electric guitar that's almost as big as she is. Here's how the record starts.
(Soundbite of song "Little Favours")
Ms. TUNSTALL: (Singing) I slipped softly through your slim fingers, feeling traces, I embrace this, feeling of letting go. Oh, and there goes, there it goes...
MOON: Wow, where did all this exuberance come from? Last time around, Tunstall was a poster girl for wistful introspection. She says she's always written more boisterous songs. But the experience of playing live with a band night after night gave her the confidence to explore more upbeat pop moods. Here's the album's first single.
(Soundbite of "Hold On")
Ms. TUNSTALL: (Singing) And now I see that it don't take a trip off the light to excite me. So strong. So long. You'll see. Hold On to what you be good for lately. Hold on to what you know you've got. Hold on to what you be good for lately. Hold on because the world will turn if you're ready or not.
MOON: What's most impressive about Tunstall's new disc is its diversity. Tucked between the bright moments are songs with lovely melodies and weightier themes, including one that tells about a friend's painful descent into mental illness. Where Blunt hits the same tone of hearts that anguish over and over again, Tunstall wanders down streets she's never seen before. He's looking to remind everybody he owns the "You're Beautiful" franchise. And she is just trying out some catchy songs, taking a few chances, and in the great pop tradition, having some fun.
BLOCK: The CDs are "All the Lost Souls" by James Blunt and "Drastic Fantastic" by KT Tunstall. Our reviewer is Tom Moon.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.