Kate Bush
50 Words for Snow


4.0
excellent

Review

by Matthew D. French USER (50 Reviews)
November 23rd, 2011 | 81 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: after an illustrious 35-year career, Kate Bush is still able to amaze.

Kate Bush is inarguably one of the most influential songstresses of all time (and my personal favorite). Tori Amos, Bjork, Florence Welch, PJ Harvey, and so many others have all taken largely from Bush’s individualistic mix of pop/progressive art-rock and applied it to their sound. Somehow, Bush has managed to avoid all of the worst tendencies of her contemporaries and is continually moving forward: pushing the envelope with each release as she brings new elements to the table. Given Bush’s widespread eclecticism, it strains the limits of belief to think that she’s still able after all of these years to churn out material worthy of note, let alone albums that challenge her heyday masterpieces. But lo and behold: 50 Words For Snow is just as focused, creative, and emotionally conscious as her best albums.

Unlike many of her contemporaries, Bush just refuses to fall victim to age. At 54 years old her vocals sound a bit burly, taking on a much deeper tone than that of her older wails, but they only helps to service 50 Words For Snow in a positive way. Her voice is very sentimental and comforting here, almost as if she’s singing to us from inside a log cabin in the middle of a dead, cold night -- clad in warm garments with a woolen cover draped over her by the fire as she recalls tales of love and loss. This snow globe world of hers is easy to get immersed in: it’s spacious yet welcoming, cold yet fondly tender. Forsaking grandiosity in favor of snow-inflected landscapes, 50 Words For Snow is essentially Bush’s provocation for wintry surrealism. The songs have a slow, meditative tempo and revolve (mostly) around crisp piano, Bush’s warm vocals, and delicate percussion. More than anything though, 50 Words For Snow works well as something minimal; unlike other releases, Bush really fixates on the inclusion of negative space to make way for drafty ambiance. These songs aren’t aimless in their approach though: they sometimes burst into small sections of unadulterated bliss - just enough to satisfy a craving for emotional fulfillment. This dichotomy of restraint and release is an immaculate blend; “Snowflake” exemplifies this by occasionally breaking away from its revolving motif to give way to something much more arresting. The piano seldom reaches for higher octaves to achieve something utterly sublime, but that’s a good thing, because these moments - few and far between as they are - are made all the more enjoyable as a result of being spaced out.

Bush hasn’t lost sight of her quirky characteristics though. Quite the contrary; “Wild Man” hearkens back to that definitive ‘Bush’ style as she leads a cast of characters to traverse the Himalayas. Eventually they uncover evidence of the elusive ‘Yeti’ and opt to cover its footprints in attempt to keep it a secret. Its curious and engaging lyricism is propelled by an idiosyncratic tribal-esque vocal performance by Andrew Fairweather Low. It’s a deeply rewarding moment for fans pining for more of the odd and unconventional from her, even if it does slightly step outside of the album’s overlying atmosphere. Elton John is featured as well, lending his voice to help portray Bush’s desired narrative. This works exceptionally well on “Snowed In at Wheeler Street” where both Bush and John’s vocals are incorporated with gorgeous, minimal strings and jazz-tinged piano. It’s an eerie love story that operates under the notion of reincarnation and revolves around a lover’s reunion. Both characters meet during several lifetimes and events: unified at ancient Rome, the war-ridden Europe of 1942, and the ruins of ground zero. “I don’t want to lose you again” cries Bush and John, reaching the epitome of longing and pain felt through their duet. Even more creative is “Misty”. “Sunday morning, I can't find him/The sheets are soaking, and on my pillow: dead leaves, bits of twisted branches and frozen garden/Crushed and stolen grasses from slumbering lawn", mourns Bush. If you haven’t guessed already, she’s referring to a sexual encounter with a snowman. It’s an odd slice of eroticism, but it’s also easily digestible, clocking in at just over thirteen minutes long. Most of the songs here are lengthy - the shortest being seven minutes long - yet nothing feels overwrought.

There are cracks beneath the ice here and there, but nothing that detracts greatly from the overall product. "Wild Man" is gorgeous but slightly removes the listener from immersion, and the song lengths might be off-putting to some, but such things are faint criticisms for an otherwise phenomenal record. 50 Words For Snow was more or less created by using very little but somehow manages to have a coherent and fully realized sound, one that’s distinctly Bush but also something refreshingly new. The songs are mostly slow-burners that only peak out for brief moments, and that’s fine - it helps contextualize Bush’s vision (even if it is a little bit of a tease). Ultimately, 50 Words For Snow is a brilliant and warm ode to the season upon us, and is every bit as engaging and rewarding as her classic albums. So gather ‘round the fire’s warm embrace and rejoice: Bush is still at the top of her game.

"Come with me, I'll find some rope
I'll tie us together.
I've been waiting for you so long…
I don't want to lose you again…
"



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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...

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

Fugue (4.5)
Winter is coming....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Gyromania
November 23rd 2011


15941 Comments


So, this has two pretty good reviews already, but I had to voice my opinion on this gorgeous album. Also, anyone who hasn't heard this should definitely check it out - here's a legal stream: http://www.npr.org/2011/11/13/142133269/first-listen-kate-bush-50-words-for-snow

pizzamachine
November 23rd 2011


12571 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Oh sweet, I was looking for wintery music! Great review.

edit: congrats on feature :O

Gyromania
November 23rd 2011


15941 Comments


Thanks Pizza! You should definitely get this, it's right up your alley.

KILL
November 23rd 2011


71981 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

rules

Digging: Exodus - Blood In, Blood Out

Fugue
November 23rd 2011


7353 Comments


m/

Fugue
November 23rd 2011


7353 Comments


Pretty tasty review Matt, gratz on the feature.

taylormemer
November 23rd 2011


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Good work mate.

LoveYerBrain
November 23rd 2011


89 Comments


looks purdy

Gyromania
November 23rd 2011


15941 Comments


Ross and Jake: Cheers, guys =]

taylormemer
November 23rd 2011


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

The three of us literally seem to share the same thoughts (almost word for word) which I don't think I've seen happen for a while. Testament to its excellence I guess.

Gyromania
November 23rd 2011


15941 Comments


I know, I kind of felt like I was just re-writing what had already been said by you guys, but I hope it's varied enough. I actually wrote this review about a week ago and it apparently didn't save for whatever reason (some 800 or so words were lost) so I re-did it from the ground up.

Anyways, I might have to raise my rating for this because I seem to enjoy it more with subsequent listens. "Snowflake" and "Snowed in at The Wheel" are perfect in my eyes.

taylormemer
November 23rd 2011


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Sometimes rewriting yields better results. I'm sure here is no exception.

Gyromania
November 23rd 2011


15941 Comments


Exactly, and truth be told, I think I'm happier with this than I was with the original. Still bloody
unnecessary though, lol.

taylormemer
November 23rd 2011


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Keep it real bro m/

Jethro42
November 23rd 2011


12493 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah Kate is trve.

Athom
Staff Reviewer
November 23rd 2011


17224 Comments


finally read this, gj

Tyrael
November 24th 2011


20930 Comments


Nahh, good review though

Gyromania
November 24th 2011


15941 Comments


Thanks, guys!

Jethro42
November 24th 2011


12493 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I can see your 4 changing for a 4.5 from here.

Gyromania
November 24th 2011


15941 Comments


I'll probably raise my rating as well.



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