Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Album review: KATE BUSH - 50 Words For Snow

Highlights: Snowflakes, Misty, Wild Man

When I was writing my review of Director’s Cut half a year ago, I had a sad but insistent feeling that I wouldn’t have to write about a new album by Kate Bush for five, ten years at least. But then of course: technically, Director’s Cut wasn’t even a new album in the true sense of the word. So however unexpected, the release of 50 Words For Snow wasn’t all that shocking.

Out of all Kate’s albums, 50 Words For Snow is by far the least immediate. The long-winded, elaborate, wintry songs are not exactly what one would crack over the course of one or two listens. It’s all mature, somber stuff that demands time and patience – like true art should. Hooks are there; vocal and instrumental, they will keep seeping through your mind with all those slow, delicate piano lines and Kate’s deep, intricate voice.  

“Snowflakes”. A duet with her son (who sounds a lot like her) Stately piano and brilliantly evocative lyrics.

“Lake Tahoe”. Easily the weakest, most over-worked song here. And the tune is a little too vague. Still, the chilling atmosphere and Kate’s perfectionism make it a totally singular experience.

“Misty”. The longest song here (more than 13 minutes), “Misty” is both enigmatic and enchanting. The lyrics are a sexual fantasy that involves a woman and a snowman, which is a whim only Kate Bush could pull off so gracefully.

“Wild Man”. The single. This one’s an instantly memorable, beautiful ode to the Yeti. Based on a terrific synthesizer riff, it’s both ominous and touching.  

“Snowed In At Wheeler Street”. A duet with… Elton John. God, I wish I didn’t have to say this, but aren’t the lyrics a little bit pedestrian? And it all sounds terrific when Kate sings her part, but Elton John just doesn’t have the edge that a Kate Bush record demands. The melody is good, though. Simple yet hard-hitting.

“50 Words For Snow”. And yet another duet, this one is a particularly unlikely one – with Stephen Fry. But then Stephen doesn’t even sing anything, he just narrates… well, 50 different words for snow. It’s charming and deeply addictive, even if musically the song offers very little in terms of variation.

“Among Angels”. Almost brief (just short of 7 minutes!), this is a fitting close to the whole thing. We are back in “Misty”/”Snowflakes” territory: piano-based, haunting, atmospheric.

Listening to 50 Words For Snow is certainly one special experience. So cold, distant and yet so passionate and engaging, you just know you won’t find it anywhere else. So much thought, so much craft, so much artistic imagination inside these 7 songs, it beguiles and mystifies even when the material isn’t too strong. 50 Words For Snow hasn’t overwhelmed me yet, but there’s a feeling that presently I’m not even halfway through with this thing.  


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