After thirty years, nine albums and a seventeen year gap only broken by 2005’s superb Aerial, Kate Bush is back with her second album of the year- the first, Directors Cut was a rehash of some of the tracks from her albums The Sensual World and The Red Shoes. Set against a wintery backdrop and featuring a theme of snow, 50 Words for Snow could best be described as a concept album. If the Beach Boys wrote songs about summer, Kate Bush is writing songs about winter.
One of the best tracks on 50 Words for Snow is the opener ‘Snowflake’, a simple piano driven track that isn’t a million miles away from ‘Walking in the Air’; this need not be an insult though, it’s a great sounding track and the ‘Walking in the Air’ comparison can only help the wintery theme. The lyrics on ‘Snowflake’ are from the perspective of a snowflake slowly falling to earth. It is amazing how ‘Snowflake’ manages to sound charming and chilling at the same time- much like snow I guess.
The second track on the album is ‘Lake Tahoe’ an almost hymnal song in tribute to a ghostly woman who appears at a lake to call for her dog: yep, it’s weird but it works. From the vocals and the choirs to the instrumentation, everything about this track keeps to the wintery theme and sounds absolutely chilling.
The longest track on the album is the third: ‘Misty’. Keeping to the simple piano led instrumentation that haunts the rest of the album but with a much harsher and less hymnal vocals; already we are seeing the wide vocal range Kate Bush has. The themes on ‘Misty’ deal with a snowman who melts away, leaving a distraught lover behind. The lead single from ’50 Words for Snow’ is ‘Wild Man’ a song that could best be described as jazz rock about a hunt for a yeti. The jazzy bass and Kate Bush’s whispered vocals make this track sound way different from any other track on the album so far.
The next two tracks feature respective duets with two British legends: Elton John on ‘Snowed in on Wheeler Street’ and Stephen Fry on ’50 Words for Snow’. ‘Snowed in on Wheeler Street’ features about a couple who are eternally separated. The lush vocals and looped violins and synths that lurk in the background on this record sound absolutely perfect.
The oddest track on the ’50 Words for Snow’ is ’50 Words for Snow’ which features Stephen Fry listing er, 50 words for snow. Fry’s voice is absolutely perfect for this track (when isn’t it perfect for anything?) and I could easily argue that this is the best track on the entire album; when Kate Bush herself sings, she counts down the amount of words for snow he has left to list.
The final track on ’50 Words for Snow ‘Among Angels’ is a piano driven love song. ‘Among Angels’ is one of those tracks where it feels like it is going to build up to something the entire track, but actually goes on for almost 7 minutes. While this isn’t nearly as different or as interesting as the other tracks on the album, it is a nice sounding song and is the most ‘Kate Bush’ track on the album.
Overall I feel that ’50 Words for Snow’ is a genuinely great album, especially for a musician with such a career as Kate Bush; normally albums released at this point of a career are for the super fans and the collectors only: ’50 Words for Snow’ proves that this need not be the case.
Kate Bush’s new album 50 Words for Snow is available now.