Category Archives: Kate Bush

Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow

Kate Bush – 50 Words For Snow

4/5

2011

As mysterious and graceful as snowfall itself, Kate Bush’s 50 Words For Snow is a thing of restrained beauty. It’s her first album of original material since 2005’s double LP Aerial (which itself was a sort of comeback), but where that album sprawled over 17 tracks, 50 Words comes from the opposite angle. The first three tracks, taken together, total over a half hour, and there’s only seven songs in all. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bush takes advantage of the extended track lengths to explore sparse, chilly atmospherics. That first trio of songs often employ nothing more than a few haunting piano motifs, string arrangements and, of course, Bush’s stunning voice, which coos as often as it belts. On “Misty,” she even occasionally recalls Spirit Of Eden-era Mark Hollis in the way she suddenly cuts through and rises out of the spacious, jazzy soundscape. (All due respect to the other musicians as well, especially drummer Steve Gadd’s deft touch.) These lengthy, enigmatic songs are supposed to reflect the season of winter, both in the music and lyrics, and in this respect, they succeed more often than not, conjuring up images of ice-capped pine forests and footprints disappearing in the snow.

But if the first half hour or so seems a little too monochromatic, Bush diversifies things a bit in the second half. “Wild Man” offsets twangy keyboards and whispered warnings to the Yeti with strange, soaring choruses; Elton John stops by to trade lines with Bush on the tense “Snowed In At Wheeler Street;” the percussive “50 Words For Snow,” meanwhile, features Stephen Fry reciting the eponymous words and phrases as Bush eggs him on. “Among Angels” then closes things out with a solo piano piece, returning to the same atmosphere from the beginning of the album, albeit with a more digestible track length. So there you have it: Kate Bush stepped way out there to make a series of epics about winter, and somehow it works. Certainly, with her vocal presence and off-kilter synth lines, there’s no mistaking this record for anybody else, but she’s never recorded something so subdued and naturalistic before. Sure, a couple of the tracks may wear out their welcome, but 50 Words For Snow is a compelling, beautiful yet elliptical meditation on the coldest months of the year.

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