Kate Bush
50 Words for Snow


4.5
superb

Review

by Fugue USER (58 Reviews)
November 18th, 2011 | 44 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Winter is coming.

After taking 12 years to create her last proper LP, one would be forgiven for assuming Kate Bush would be unlikely to release a follow up so soon. All jokes aside, a seven year turnaround is a much improved timeframe, and the ever striving perfectionist has more reason than most to take time over her work. Her last album, the beautifully ethereal Aerial, was an exceptional comeback, and at times as light and breezy as a summer’s day. It stands to reason then, that her follow-up should be the complete antithesis of its predecessor; a cold and dark affair alluding to winter’s chilly embrace. In fact 50 Words For Snow does a lot more than just allude to winter, it personifies it sonically, enveloping the listener in its captivating spell while each song develops the theme further, contributing to the album as a cohesive whole.

This conceptual quality is standard fare for Bush, and is presented with all the elegance and proficiency one would expect. The opening triumvirate of songs form the backdrop to which the following tracks develop. Somewhat sparse instrumentation dictates the meandering vocals, arrhythmic melodies colouring the poetic lyrics an icy white. An atmosphere, almost delicately thin, emerges from Snowflakes, a detached, relaxing sensation that remains throughout the duration of the album. Misty humanises this somewhat and Wild Man animalizes it, but the impression of sorrow remains, whether isolated or not. While primarily permeated with this wintry ambiance, Bush’s characteristic diversity necessitates the occasional divergence. The evolution from sorrowful synth resonance to powerfully uplifting vocal harmonies in Snowed in at Wheeler Street illustrates the fluctuating moods of a slowly blossoming romance and is the prime example of the ever-changing nature of the moods.

While the instrumental miasma dictates the direction of the album, the vocals are equally important. Bush’s characteristic wails may have matured with time but are still unmistakable, and if anything, the slightly huskier timbre she now possesses lends itself favourably to the subject matter at hand. Adapting her voice to fit the music is a recurring theme throughout; denser songs such as Wild Man demand flexibility, with layered chants interspersing with hushed whispers to generate a confused commentary. Elsewhere, Among Angels demonstrates the softer side to her voice, setting it against a gorgeous piano melody and her son Bertie provides the slightly eerie hymnal chants that punctuate Snowflakes. Vocal harmonics are also explored through guest spots, with Elton John (Snowed in at Wheeler Street) and Stephen Fry (50 Words for Snow) both offering their idiosyncratic vocals to proceedings.

As typical for a Bush album, the pacing and sequencing of the record are faultless, each song blurring unobtrusively into the next. This leads to an album that offers an experience greater than the sum of its parts, with only the slightly peculiar title track disturbing the otherwise seamless progression from start to finish. 50 Words For Snow is one of those rare albums that can offer two completely different experiences from one listen to the next, and while a deep listen will highlight the inextricable details within, it can provide just as much pleasure when listened to casually as background noise. With 50 Words For Snow Bush’s art-pop ideals may well be fully realised and in doing so, she has created yet another remarkable album to add to her outstanding canon.

Overall 4.5 Superb



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user ratings (194)
Chart.
3.8
excellent
other reviews of this album
Rick van Veldhuizen (5)
Wintery domesticity glazed with wonder and delight - an accessible, impressionist concept album....

Nick Butler EMERITUS (4)
Disappointing single aside, it's another frighteningly good album from one of England's all-time gre...

Matthew D. French (4)
after an illustrious 35-year career, Kate Bush is still able to amaze....

Jake C. Taylor (4)
The only seasonal album you'll need during the coming year....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Fugue
November 18th 2011


7354 Comments


Possible AOTY right here I think.

Digging: Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy

KILL
November 18th 2011


72131 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

gota get

Digging: Throwing Muses - Throwing Muses

Fugue
November 18th 2011


7354 Comments


Totally, you heard the stream?

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
November 18th 2011


16789 Comments


stream? where? = ]

Digging: Damien Rice - My Favourite Faded Fantasy

Fugue
November 18th 2011


7354 Comments


My bad: http://www.npr.org/2011/11/13/142133269/first-listen-kate-bush-50-words-for-snow?ps=cprs

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
November 18th 2011


16789 Comments


thanks!

Chrisjon89
November 18th 2011


3833 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Good review - I'm only one song in but this is really great so far.

Jethro42
November 18th 2011


12550 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Kate omg

Jethro42
November 18th 2011


12550 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh yes it does! I'm half the way. What is great with Kate is that she's the mastermind, the songwriter and the author of each and every partitions and arrangements. Excellent review, freek.

ruco
November 18th 2011


4 Comments


no way anyone can give an accurate assessment of this album so soon after release. this is going to take awhile

Jethro42
November 18th 2011


12550 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@ruco; I'm totally seduced and absorbed already.
Mutatedfreek, I suggest you to try some Holly Cole, another chick with an awesome voice. Smooth and jazzy stuff. Some bits and pieces here remind me of her. I can hear some Talk Talk too at some point. I love you so much, Kate xxx

Gyromania
November 18th 2011


15973 Comments


I've already said it, but truly good work here, mate. Honestly, all of these months of silence and you haven't lost your touch at all. Pos.

Jethro42
November 18th 2011


12550 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

And I still have to hear Aerial. Where have you been, Jethro..
4.5/5 at a minimum for 50 Words for Snow. AOTY...? Possibly indeed.

Chrisjon89
November 19th 2011


3833 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Me too ^ yet to hear Aerial.

This was pretty amazing.

Spare
November 19th 2011


5360 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

aerial's really good but inconsistent. this is better overall.

Fugue
November 19th 2011


7354 Comments


@ruco: That's a fair point and I'm glad you bought it up. The stream has been up six days now, and in
that time I have listened to barely anything but this album. That wasn't just because I had planned on
reviewing it, it is, as Jethro said, an absorbing experience. My views on it's quality have only
increased since my first listen, and while I agree with your sentiment, I have honestly tried to
assess this as well as I could. If my reaction to the album had been negative I would have sat back
and delayed and given the album more time to make an impression on me, but considering I've given it
what I have (and with the greatest of respect to the album, it'll never be a 5 in my books) then I
personally feel this is as good a time as any to publish the review.

Fugue
November 19th 2011


7354 Comments


@Jethro: Thanks once again for the kind words, I knew you'd like this. I must say I'm surprised you haven't heard Aerial given the furore over it's long-awaited release; it's really quite breathtaking in places and I see no reason why you wouldn't love it. As for Holly Cole, cheers for the recommendation, I'm actually just about to check her out now on a lazy Saturday morning. I struggled a little with the recommended by reviewer section so if I like what I hear and it's particularly relevant to the album, I might just add her to the list.

@Spare, chrisjon, Gyro: Cheers guys, glad you're enjoying the album.

taylormemer
November 19th 2011


4944 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Screw it, I was gonna review this but I may just settle for a sound off. Nice work.

Fugue
November 19th 2011


7354 Comments


Nice joke bro.

Nomad
November 19th 2011


247 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Duet with Elton John on this is the best thing he's done for years and years.



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