Confession time: I've never really listened to much Kate Bush. I don't particularly have a reason why, I just haven't ever got around to it. I've now been living with her latest album, 50 Words For Snow, for a few weeks and it's a pretty incredible record.
It feels both dense and incredibly intense. It is also so entwined with the season that I really cannot imagine ever even considering playing it on a nice summer's day. Both of these facts are front and centre from the off, with opener 'Snowflake' a ten-minute walk through a jazz melody played on Bush's piano whilst her son Albert describes a strange sense of detachment in the snow. He seems to be struggling to find the person that is the subject of the song - it feels like getting lost and left alone in a white-out at night. Lonely but strangely serene.
A fitting opener, since this is an album of moods and atmosphere. It sounds like it could be a soundtrack to a movie, it's so consistent in theme and tone. That means it simply feels like too much - it's all just a little too rich and even the shortest song is almost seven-minutes long. It loses it's footing slightly on 'Wild Man' but you can't help but be charmed by Bush's penchant for the bizarre, as expressed on this tale of finding a yeti's footprints. It is the duet with Elton John that provides the climax on 'Snowed in at Wheeler St' however, and it is another tail separation - a theme that runs throughout the album. It's aggressively climatic chorus and finale hangs around long after the music has faded, although the sheer volume almost knocks the whole album off-kilter. It feels like an epic slab of AOR in the middle of a delicate jazz album.
50 Words For Snow is one of the most intriguing albums I've heard in a long time - it's themes and movements incredibly bold. It is over the top but you can't help but applaud Bush's willingness to experiment, whether it is with Stephen Fry reading out made up names for snow or in the folklore themes than run through some of the lyrics. Winter undoubtedly has a magical feel to it and this record probably captures that feeling better than any other I've ever heard.