Release Date: Nov 21, 2011
Record label: Epitaph
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Yetis, snowman sex, snowflake conception, doomed romance: Kate Bush's 10th studio album (and her second this year) is in strikingly chilly counterpoint to the warm domestic bliss evoked in her last LP of all-new material, 2005's Aerial. As you might expect from a winter-themed record, a solitary tone pervades these seven shivery compositions, many of which unfurl slowly and deliberately from Bush's trembling piano. There's a grace and simplicity to the arrangements.
There are many peculiar things about Kate Bush's 50 Words for Snow. If it's not strictly speaking a Christmas album, it's certainly a seasonal one, and the seasonal album is these days more associated with Justin Bieber than critically acclaimed singer-songwriters following their own wildly idiosyncratic path. It devotes nearly 14 impossibly beautiful minutes to Misty, a song on which Bush imagines first building a snowman and then, well, humping him, with predictably unhappy consequences: "He is dissolving before me," she sings sadly, not the first lady in history to complain about an evening of passion coming to a premature conclusion.
So yeah: maybe when Kate Bush said the 12 year gap between The Red Shoes and Aerial was down to her wanting to work on being a mum for a while – and not because she’d had a mental breakdown/become morbidly obese/was a dope fiend/sundy other conspiracy theories that flew around – she was, y’know, telling the truth. Here, six years after Aerial and just six months after Director’s Cut comes 50 Words for Snow. It’s Bush’s third album since 2005, which technically puts her up on The Strokes, The Shins or Modest Mouse.
Capitalizing, perhaps, on her currency among young alt-pop sirens like Florence Welch, Bush follows up May’s Director’s Cut with a boldly stripped-down set that distills her off-kilter aesthetic to its purest essence: Think tolling piano chords, swooping vocals, and loads of dreamy poetry about horses and porcelain dolls. It’s all gorgeous — even the 13-minute ”Misty” — but 50 Words for Snow peaks with a stunning Elton John duet on which the pair play time-traveling lovers. A- Download These:Elton-assisted Snowed in at Wheeler StreetQuiet storm Snowflake .
Revisiting older work on this year’s Director’s Cut gave Kate Bush a chance to review aspects of her canon so far. Her approach was as clear-sighted and inventive as we have come to expect, and through gaining permission to use James Joyce’s words (“The Sensual World” became “The Flower of the Mountain”), she finally got to “meet” him, entering into a dialogue of sorts. A sense of dialogue is where 50 Words For Snow picks up, but this time it revisits another theme of Bush’s: nature.
On "Wild Man", the first single from Kate Bush's winterized 10th album, the singer tells of an expedition searching for the elusive Abominable Snowman. "They want to know you," she coos, "They will hunt you down, then they will kill you/ Run away, run away, run away." Of course, when it comes to modern popular figures-- who often court fame and adulation with an obsessiveness that can be fascinating or just plain sad-- Bush herself is something of a mythical beast. 50 Words for Snow is only her second album of original material in the last 17 years, and she hasn't performed a full concert since her groundbreaking and theatrical Tour of Life wrapped up its six-week run in 1979.
“I was born in a cloud,” sighs art-rock sorceress Kate Bush on her mesmerizing 10th studio album. “Cloud-like” is a fairly fitting adjective for 50 Words of Snow, which blooms into your headphones with “Snowflake,” an immersion of pillowy piano ambience, synth pulses and guitars that flicker like a dying flame. “The world is so loud,” Bush sings, her trademark sensual lisp masked in heavenly vocal-room reverb.
“Boomerangablanca.” “Blown from polar fur.” “Whippoccino.” On “50 Words For Snow”—the title composition of Kate Bush’s quietly magical 10th studio album—Stephen Fry recites 50 words for snow. “Don’t you know it’s not just the Eskimo,” Bush dares. “Let me hear your 50 words for snow.” They continue, a veritable blizzard (ha) of childlike linguistic invention with Bush counting along: “Phlegm de neige.” “Psychohail.” “Melt-o-blast.” Funk bass, swirling percussion (courtesy of session master Steve Gadd), and what sounds like a howling Alaskan wind swarm in a rhythmic pocket around Fry’s recital.
Review Summary: Disappointing single aside, it's another frighteningly good album from one of England's all-time greats. Oh, what a shame that "Wild Man" is here, with its synth sound that would have sounded dated on Hounds of Love, its awkward, stunted melody, and its not-quite-right, oddly Jeff Wayne-esque vocal harmonies. It's the weakest song Bush has released since her comeback and it sees the album's mood hit a brick wall, when it had been sustained perfectly up until that point.
Kate Bush is of a time when pop singers didn’t need faux-lesbian makeout sessions to express nascent female sexuality, when eccentricity was not some contrived aesthetic end but a consequence of the creative process itself. For Bush, the beauty and weirdness of sex — of sensuality — was the basis of art. Her early music was shocking not for any overtly explicit content, but for its desperate attempts to celebrate sensuality in an age of technology and the vicious detachment it wrought.
"Wild Man," introduced by the sounds of whipping winds, is one of two uptempo tracks here, an electronically pulse-driven, synth-swept paean to the Tibetan Kangchenjunga Demon, or "Yeti." Assisted by the voice of Andy Fairweather Low, its protagonist relates fragments of expedition legends and alleged encounters with the elusive creature. Her subject possesses the gift of wildness itself; she seeks to protect it from the death wish of a world which, through its ignorance, fears it. On "Snowed in at Wheeler Street," Bush is joined in duet by Elton John.
A new album by Kate Bush always comes laden with an almost intolerable weight of expectation. In the 12 years that separated The Red Shoes (1993) and Aerial (2005), Bush’s mystique and reputation as some sort of maverick in self-induced exile grew to massive proportions. In fact Bush had taken the time out to focus on bringing up her son, and fair play to her.
One artist from the past three decades who is a continual bellwether of dissonance and harmony is the reclusive art-rock queen Kate Bush. Her dissonance with pop culture is that of expectation. Her music required patience and a meditative spirit at a time when the Big ’80s kicked in the world’s front door. It was similar to the Auto-Tuned radio beast that some indie listeners wrestle with today.
It takes a ’70s señora like [a]Kate Bush[/a] to really make a concept album. None of this vague ‘oh, it’s kind of about the English Riviera, only most of it’s not really’ fudge. When [a]Kate Bush[/a] sets out to write an album about snow, you get seven songs up to their necks in shivery drifts. You get yeti.
Compared to her earlier work, Kate Bush's latest album may be a bit of a surprise to some, while utterly logical to others. With Bush certainly having nothing to prove in terms of creating challenging music, considering albums such as 1982's densely intriguing The Dreaming, the approach for her latest album is comparatively simple, direct, and as much of an enveloping experience as anything in her catalogue. .
Just in time for the arrival of winter cold, Kate Bush’s 50 Words for Snow settles in like a dense, icy fog, delivered in a slow, deliberate style that’s far different from the singer’s usual doe-eyed dynamism. Following up on the more leisurely take on old material that characterized Director’s Cut, the album applies Bush’s usual lyrical palette, purple tales of romance characterized by expressive fantasy elements, to long, glacially progressing tracks. This means that, despite Bush’s long-term reputation as a purveyor of singularly odd pop songs, the material here isn’t as catchy as it is catatonic.
As anyone who watches QI will tell you, the Inuit language does not actually have 50 words for snow. It's a myth, but one so pervasive, so pretty, you feel it ought to be true. On the title track of her 10th album, Kate Bush obliges with a flourish. As some sparsely funky electronics percolate behind her, Bush goads QI host Stephen Fry to compile 50 words for the cold white stuff – stuff whose meanings (purity, death, frigidity, fun) can shift and drift, just like the blown flakes themselves.
Thanks to Wuthering Heights, Kate Bush will always be connected to Emily Brontë, the author of the novel whose story Bush retold in her debut single. Her tenth studio album, however, is driven by a preoccupation shared with Emily's younger sister. At the beginning of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, the eponymous heroine is found poring over Bewick's History of British Birds, fantasising about the “forlorn regions of dreary space” around the fringes of the Arctic in which seabirds congregate.
The sublime and the ridiculous: this is classic Kate. Jude Rogers 2011 Six years after Aerial’s bursts of summer sound, Kate Bush’s winter album arrives, each track exploring the long Christmas months. They reflect a season which brings out the profound and absurd in equal measure – the feelings of longing and loneliness that emerge as the dark nights bed in, the party-hat silliness that pops up when the same nights stretch out.