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“Haunting, jazz-based, Gregorian chamber poetry”: Rochester Democrat & Chronicle

Short capsule review from Jeff Spevak at the Democrat:

an uncompromising, influential artist. This haunting, jazz-based, Gregorian chamber poetry … lends breathtaking depth to provocative ideas ...”

Does Kate Bush deserve the five-star critics? – Independent

Tom Sutcliffe at The Independent wonders if the music critics have been abdicating their duty and giving 50 Words a bye, merely because Kate is perceived to be a national treasure …

since I’d spent several days listening to the album something didn’t quite fit for me. It had its virtues, certainly, and I don’t think anyone would deny the quality of the thing – in terms of performance and recording. But it seemed odd that a record so quirky – and so hazardously earnest – would generate such unanimity across the board. Rock critics aren’t famously forgiving creatures, after all, and yet there were moments here that struck me as virtually impossible to listen to without laughing …”

Phew What a Scorcher! Kate scores in tabloids!

Pete Clark London Evening Standard 4 stars: “the central metaphor holds good: these songs may seem alike, but like snowflakes, they are all different. You are going to have to give this record a bit of time…” Adrian Thrills Daily Mail 4 stars: “A sprawling song cycle with a wintry theme … pitches Kate’s still striking vocals into a richer, less synthetic setting than in the past. Initially, the onus is on her fluent piano work … Pride of place goes to two ear- catching duets … an album — and a singer — who refuses to be hemmed in by traditional frontiers.” Gavin Martin The Daily Mirror 4 stars: “A rare treat… fanciful but stripped down album is a bizarre indulgence. Piano primed sensuality for the new ice age“. The Sun – scores 4 “Icing on the Katean absorbing concept album … inventive as it is odd. Stunning as it is surreal“.

“The songs require patience—patience that absolutely pays off”: Harvard Crimson

3.5 stars from Rebecca J Mazur in The Harvard Crimson:

a uniquely remarkable album, with style, content, and structure at once fascinating and beautiful, yet strange and somewhat inaccessible … comprised almost entirely of abnormally long songs … best be described as minimalist sagas …  a larger canvas for artistic expression and experimentation, it also makes it easy to lose track of the song itself, as many of the melodic motifs are repeated for many minutes without much variation … The album requires more focus to fully discern all there is to appreciate in the subtle instrumentation, calmly passionate vocals, and poetic content of the songs. Bush uses the expanded form of her songs to craft products with a tremendous deal of lyrical depth … All are triumphant examples of Bush’s usual creativity in crafting lyrics with wonderful imagery from unique sources of inspiration … Throughout the album there is also an understated sense of humor … Her voice soars at dramatic moments into her upper range in a disconcerting yet powerful dissonance, and then grows low and gravelly with urgency and desperation … a strange album. Its instrumentation is minimalistic, the melodies hard to grasp, and the lyrics often meandering and soulful. But it is also a brilliant compilation that showcases some of Bush’s best creative tendencies. The songs are as much works of art and poetry as they are music, and as such they require patience—patience that absolutely pays off.”

Saying It With Snowflakes: Short interview in the Wall Street Journal

Short interview and album review by Jim Fusilli in the Wall Street Journal:

When you consider that Kate Bush has gone as long as a dozen years between albums, the appearance of “Director’s Cut” earlier this year and “50 Words for Snow” (Anti) this week is a bonanza. Both discs remind us that Ms. Bush is rarely less than very interesting and often quite superb …”

“Sparse, beautiful and ultimately pure”: Consequence of Sound

4 1/2 stars from Siobhan Kane at Consequence of Sound (also featured on the Time Magazine website):

Using snow as a kind of landscape, it provides a sparse, beautiful, and ultimately pure backdrop for her creativity to soar … “Snowflake” … is a lovely way to start the record. It creates a conversation with mother and son and also with the earth and us, since the song suggests we are of the earth, yet “ice and dust and light”; we are at once flesh and blood, yet ethereal, unknowable. The haunting piano that flutters around the piece creates an emotional fragility, the “midnight of Christmas” McIntosh sings of. “The world is so loud,” Bush sings, so she sets about creating a place of stillness for us to travel to and be transported …“Lake Tahoe” begins with harmonies from tenor and counter tenor Stefan Roberts and Michael Wood that dissolve into a mournful piano composition, with Bush’s yearning, searching vocal … “Misty” is an almost fourteen minute piece of brilliance … The composition twists from a driving rhythmic kind of a song to something akin to spoken word, mixing up a jazz sensibility with a touch of folk, creating an exciting musical space…”

“Exquisite suite of piano-driven chamber pop”: Scotland on Sunday

Four stars from Colin Somerville in Scotland on Sunday:

“TWENTY-ONE years ago Kate assured us that December would be magic again, and with her tenth album she delivers on that promise. It is an exquisite suite of piano-driven chamber pop, eclectic and strangely comforting, a seasonal record that celebrates the chilly cheer. Kate’s voice still thrills, and she has chosen a couple of very plummy side orders to complement it. … There are just seven tracks spanning 65 minutes, with only the single Wild Man emerging from a sonic blizzard to resemble a conventional pop tune. … This is a timely reminder of a highly individual and very British talent.”

“An elegy for the human condition”: Boston Globe

James Reed in the Boston Globe:

“Fitting for a work called “50 Words for Snow,’’ Kate Bush’s 10th album moves with the velocity and grace of a glacier. Built around piano, Bush’s supple voice, and the faintest wash of drums, bass, and guitar … It’s ostensibly a song cycle about snow, but it reaches beyond that to become an elegy for the human condition …. These songs lull you into a serene state of mind, so much so that the guests end up crashing the party. … Those cameos aren’t exactly intrusive, but they do weigh down an album that’s otherwise content to drift as gently as the snow in question.”

“The vanishing world illuminated by a furnace-blast of life”: LA Times

3.5/4 from Margaret Wappler at the LA Times:

“From up on that hill, perhaps wearing a capelet over a flowy Victorian gown, Kate Bush has been regarded as a spirit saint of fearless individuality by a generation of musicians … All that adoration in the ether must’ve stirred the reclusive British singer-songwriter to create not just one album this year  … but also a second one, “50 Words for Snow,” an art-song cycle that veers from delicate to blustery but always with a sheen of elegance. Bush grounds her songs in the permafrost of winter, with her piano work sounding like the first stirrings after a cold snap … It might be cold in Bush’s world, but it’s far from frozen. It’s the vanishing world illuminated by a furnace-blast of life.”

“It’s a beauty”: Independent on Sunday

Another five stars from Simon Price in the Independent (on Sunday):

to the relief of anyone who carries a torch for the reclusive genius, it’s a beauty. Formed of just seven songs, albeit ones of considerable length, its themes and tales all relate in some way to snow. Its sound is mimetic of the white stuff: specifically the kind of snow that arrives unannounced and settles gently in the night, rather than a dramatic, howling blizzard … The album reaches a peak with “Snowed in at Wheeler Street”, a duet with Elton John which seems to postulate a belief in reincarnation … with “Among Angels”, we’re back to that delicate, hesitant piano, and she melts away again, just like the snowman on her sheets.

“Nobody comes close to this extraordinary woman”: Sunday Times

CD of the week from Dan Cairns in the Sunday Times (behind the pay wall):

If Aerial raised eyebrows for addressing the unexpected possibilities and mental triggers contained in domestic routine, her new album proves no less befuddling and beguiling — and idiosyncratic … Musically, the album finds Bush at her most spare: several tracks feature no more than voice (thicker now, and even more emotionally resonant), piano, bass and drums. It isn’t entirely successful — there are times when you long for more sonic grandeur and open spaces, and fewer jazz colourings — but then along comes the hushed, compelling, overwhelming Among Angels, and yet again you think, there is nobody who comes close to this extraordinary woman.”

“A parallel universe of almost matchless beauty”: Detroit Free Press

Five stars from Martyn Bandike in the Detroit Free Press:

Kate Bush is in stunning, entrancing form on “50 Words for Snow … Over the course of seven expansively spacious, dreamlike compositions, Bush creates a parallel universe of almost matchless beauty. Her astonishing voice as powerful as ever, and just as impressive on piano — a lead instrument on much of the album — Bush carves out space for contemplation and reverie on songs having something to do with snow. But don’t think of this as some treacly, cliché-ridden concept album about sleigh bells ringing and Frosty the Snowman. It’s something way more profound than that.

Observer: Kate Bush: the return of pop’s most resonant voice

An article from Tim Adams in today’s Observer, probably to make up for the fact they didn’t get an interview. Thankfully, though a mite disinformed, it is not the trad hatchet job brewed up for those circumstances:

The adjective that has always snagged on Bush, along with the requisite “ethereal”, is “guileless”. She follows, we are invited to believe, her instincts in a childlike way, mixing fantasy and self-absorption and surprising everyone with the results. Her contrivances are, in this reading, anything but contrived. In some of this, you might argue that her silence has been a powerful ally. The air of mystery that she conjured as a 19-year-old has been preserved by the recent parsimony of her output. Bush has successfully tapped into the media’s working definition of a recluse: someone who has no particular desire to be interviewed for magazines.”

“Can be a frustrating listen”: Observer

3/5 from Kitty Empire at The Observer:

Like trudging through drifts, 50 Wordscan be a frustrating listen, where dour piano motifs have the edge over catharsis. It blows hot and cold, with Bush holding back rather than letting rip, a disappointing feature of her latterday albums … The final piano track, “Among Angels” should be pulling floods of tears from listeners’ ducts but never quite locates the tap. This album is rather better when it is winking at you, rather than seeking to cryogenically preserve emotion.”

What to say about Maggie and Kate?

Tom Gatti film critic of The Times (behind the pay wall) has some fun this morning ….

What binds the former first ladies of politics and pop? This week Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Margaret Thatcher had its first screening and Kate Bush’s first album of new songs for six years had its first airing — the return of one Eighties female powerhouse may be regarded as natural; the return of two seems like conspiracy. But what binds the former first ladies of politics and pop?

1. Their career dates tally. Thatcher came to power in 1979, when Bush was in the midst of her first and only tour. Thatcher retired from the House in 1992. A year later, Bush released her last album for more than a decade …”

… and Kate was pictured with Jim Calaghan during the 1979 General Election … and Maggie was depicted as Kate in a press cartoon during the same election with said Jim Callaghan going “Wow!”.

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