Kate Bush
50 Words for Snow


4.0
excellent

Review

by Nick Butler EMERITUS
November 30th, 2011 | 104 replies


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

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.

Otherwise, 50 Words for Snow is hypnotic and utterly, utterly lovely. Kate's never attempted an album like this before - it's very freeform, heavily reliant on piano ballads, and its general feel and ambience is much more important than Kate's voice or her melodies. There's something of Talk Talk's later albums about "Lake Tahoe" and "Misty", certainly on the first couple of listens; she hasn't exactly gone post-rock, but this album shares with Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock a subtle maverick spirit and a deep appreciation of simple, pastoral beauty. It's her most plain, stark material yet, and all the better for it - there's a clarity of expression and feeling here that really suits her.

And in case you were wondering, yes, all of the above does indeed also apply to the much-publicized title track, with national treasure Stephen Fry on guest vocals. Of course it's a success; if she could make Rolf Harris work as a guest on Aerial, what would make you think she can't so the same for somebody with a voice that has (no offence to Rolf) much more class and gravitas? Sure, the concept is daft - Fry reels off 50 invented alternative names for snow while Kate offers gentle encouragement from the sidelines - but the end effect is as hypnotic as anything in her catalogue. Better still, it sits in the middle of a trifecta of songs that all stand as career highlights for her - "Snowed in at Wheeler Street", with Elton John in tow, is a power ballad reimagined for a dystopian landscape, all gently insistent synths, ever so slightly creepy atmosphere, and constantly escalating tension, while "Among Angels" is this album's "This Woman's Work" or "A Coral Room"; a cavernous, pleading, unrestrainedly beautiful ballad with nothing but Kate, her piano, and a chamber string orchestra.

Very nearly a complete success, then. Once again, Kate's found a new sound world to operate in and made an effortlessly great album that works both as a conceptually cohesive whole and as a set of standlone songs as warm and comforting as a roaring fire. It's both comforting to know that an artist like Kate Bush can stay at the top of her game for so long despite all the changes that both popular music and the world at large have seen during that time, and inspiring to find out that music this fresh, vivid, and beautiful can come from somebody that's the same age as my parents.



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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....

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....

Fugue (4.5)
Winter is coming....


Comments:Add a Comment 
Iai
Emeritus
November 30th 2011


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Deliberately held this one back because I didn't want Matt to lose his feature (and his review is better imo). Can't let a record this big and brilliant slip by without a staff review though.

Xenophanes
Emeritus
November 30th 2011


10594 Comments


Guess I just don't get it : /

Digging: Grouper - Ruins

AliW1993
Contributing Reviewer
November 30th 2011


7338 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I really enjoyed this. Good review, though I personally liked Wild Man quite a bit.

Gyromania
November 30th 2011


15712 Comments


It's both comforting to know that an artist like Kate Bush can stay at the top of her game for so long despite all the changes that both popular music and the world at large have seen during that time, and inspiring to find out that music this fresh, vivid, and beautiful can come from somebody that's the same age as my parents.

^This. Really great review, Nick! I'm glad you posted it. After hearing it several more times since posting my review, "Wild Man" has grown off me quite a bit. I might have to go and edit some parts of my review, because I feel now like the song detracts hugely from the flow of the album and I find myself leaning more towards your perspective of it. While initially gripping because of its quirks, it comes off as somewhat grating and disingenuous now. Oh, and cheers for the kind works =]

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
November 30th 2011


50380 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Great stuff

Digging: Viper the Rapper - You'll Cowards Don't Even Smoke Crack

taylormemer
November 30th 2011


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Guess I just don't get it : /"

Nup

Aphrodisiac
November 30th 2011


1739 Comments


xeno listen to better albums

Xenophanes
Emeritus
November 30th 2011


10594 Comments


xeno listen to better albums



I try

jeremologyy
November 30th 2011


269 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i really like Wild Man... haha, and the whole album!

Chrisjon89
December 1st 2011


3637 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It definitely feels different to the first three songs, but I like it too. The title track and 'Snowed In At Wheeler Street' are where it dips a bit for me.

I remember being three tracks in on my first listen and not being able to believe how good it was.

Spare
December 1st 2011


5306 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

i really like wild man but i totally get why you don't

Digging: Best Witches - Wishes

Iai
Emeritus
December 1st 2011


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

As a single, "Wild Man" is fine, if a little unremarkable. It just sounds so much worse as part of this album though, especially sitting where it does. Then again, the same was true of "Deeper Understanding".

taylormemer
December 1st 2011


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah, I didn't mention Wild Man in my review because I share the same sentiments. I kind of just evaded it. lol

You gonna drop a Stockhausen review any time soon?

Fugue
December 1st 2011


7353 Comments


I like Wild Man a lot more than the title track, but different strokes.

Aids
Contributing Reviewer
December 1st 2011


23826 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

well fuck me sideways, this is amazing. someone told me this wasn't a good starting point for Kate Bush but I'm whole lotta lovin this album. gotta start checking out the rest of her stuff.

TheNotrap
December 6th 2011


8070 Comments


I need to check this asap.

Digging: Lago - Tyranny

jefflebowski
December 6th 2011


8243 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Misty is one of the most beautiful songs I've heard in a long time. the rest of the album reminds me of in rainbows era radiohead a bit

Digging: Shellac - Dude Incredible

KILL
December 6th 2011


71795 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

lol

Digging: Invisible - El jardin de los presentes

Trebor.
Contributing Reviewer
December 6th 2011


50380 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This doesn't remind of Radiohead at all

jefflebowski
December 6th 2011


8243 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

overall feel of that song reminds me of faust arp a bit



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