Perhaps it's inevitable that K.T. Tunstall's Eye to the Telescope will draw initial comparisons to Dido, since they're both female adult alternative singer/songwriters who bear a certain similarity in their vocal timbres. But as Tunstall's debut starts to unfold, those superficial connections fall away, as she reveals herself to be a soulful vocalist, a restless musician, and a serious songwriter. At times, she may be on the verge of being a little too serious, as her songs are tightly wound and earnest, two qualities that can seem slightly stuffy when her production has a glossy veneer, as it does on opening songs of the album. These cuts, while accomplished and enjoyable, paint Tunstall as a good but ordinary songwriter, halfway between Dido's elegantly sleepy soundscapes and Sheryl Crow's tuneful craft, which is an inaccurate impression, as the album quickly proves. About a third of the way in, the album kicks into gear and Tunstall is revealed as a kindred spirit of such eccentric contemporaries as Fiona Apple and Nelly Furtado. She's more straightforward than either Apple or Furtado, partially due to the album's overly slick production, but also in her sober, uncluttered songwriting, yet her musical instincts, along with her impassioned vocals, edge her out of the mainstream. Slower songs like "False Alarm" aren't sleepy; they have the lazy, jazzy undercurrents of Jeff Buckley and Radiohead, while faster cuts like the single "Black Horse and the Cherry Tree" or "Suddenly I See" have an urgency that makes them compelling, despite the shiny production. But that production is the only drawback on Eye to the Telescope -- it certainly sounds good, it certainly sounds professional, but it may keep some listeners at a distance, since it requires that they look hard to find the unique songwriter beneath the glistening surface. And if they spend the time to really hear what's going on in Eye to the Telescope, they'll find a promising, satisfying debut.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi