50 Words for Snow
By David Chiu
For an artist who is notorious for taking years to make albums, Kate Bush delivered not one but two records within a calendar year! The first one, Director’s Cut, a reworking of songs from The Sensual World and The Red Shoes, came out earlier this year; this latest one, 50 Words For Snow, is her first collection of all-new material since 2005’s Aerial. Those who grew up or very familiar with music on Bush’s albums from The Dreaming through The Red Shoes will certainly establish 50 Words as being a very understated-sounding work: no upbeat pop songs, heavy drumming, or dominant electronic/synth textures. Instead, 50 Words is a very intimate sounding record—almost jazzy in some respects (thanks to the drumming of Steve Gadd)—with Bush’s childlike vocals and piano playing at the forefront. Aside from the interesting fact is that this new record only contains seven songs together clocking in at 67 minutes, 50 Words draws on the concept of snow, so the mood evoked in each of the songs is certainly wintry. Both “Lake Tahoe” and “Misty” are lush, yearning ballads; “Snowflake” features Bush’s son Bertie who shows he takes after his mom as far as lush singing goes; the closest track to a pop song on the new record is “Wild Man.” The cinematic “Snowed in at Wheeler Street” is a track about lovers meeting and departing like two ships passing by in the night; it features a soulful duet with Elton John. The title track, featuring the spoken words of British actor Stephen Fry, has this experimental feel that evokes Bush’s work circa 1982’s The Dreaming; and “Among Angels, “is a lovely track with Bush on piano ends the record so perfectly in a comforting and uplifting manner. Free of the electronic sheen of the past records, 50 Words could be the most bare and minimalist sounding work Bush has ever put out, and the result is something quite beautiful. Then again, it’s not a surprise from this influential artist.