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“Beautiful despite mischievously close to self-parody”: Cultural Dessert

Robun Simpson in his Cultural Dessert:

Those of us who grew up fascinated by Kate Bush’s voice would probably be happy to listen to her reading the telephone directory. We get close to this on her new album … a quiet, contemplative collection of songs, mostly accompanied by gentle piano chords. It’s a beautiful work, despite continuing to sail mischievously close to self-parody … Much as I have been enjoying ‘Ceremonials’, the new album from Florence + The Machine … it is no substitute for the real thing. More please!”

“Uncompromisingly original “: Irish Times

4 stars from Sinead Gleeson in the Irish Times:

hugely ambitious while sounding very interior. Poignant and reflective, it requires time and commitment: there are no radio-friendly centrepieces … the production is less crowded than previous work, giving the songs the space they need. With so much focus on piano, some will point to the similarity between the songs, but 50 Words for Snow sidesteps sameness, and actually binds the album into a story of overlapping themes and musical tropes … The voice is aging well, and its sonorous tone adds a solemnity to things. 50 Words for Snow is a sublime achievement, as uncompromisingly original as anything Bush has ever done.”

“Otherworldly and disarmingly, invitingly human”: Varsity

Another five stars from Rory Williamson at the Cambridge Varsity:

50 Words for Snow – the very idea is excessive, superfluous, even ridiculous, but this is precisely the kind of material from which only Kate Bush can create a masterpiece. As seven songs slowly unfurl for over an hour on the topic, the listener is left only with a strengthened sense of Bush’s uncanny ability to form an inhabitable world in an album … a welcome reminder of the songwriter’s lauded ability to juggle the sublime and the ridiculous … Lyrical playfulness is second nature for Bush, but 50 Words for Snow achieves cohesiveness across its seven tracks between even the most disparate ideas. It is a landscape populated by lost figures: the “lonely” Yeti of ‘Wild Man,’ the vanishing snowman of ‘Misty,’ the woman’s spirit crying out for her dog on ‘Lake Tahoe.’ For all of its light-heartedness, the title track’s endless synonyms point to the ephemeral fragility of snow that the record explores throughout: nothing here can be pinned down, as lovers have to separate, the animated snowman melts and the snowflake given voice on the opener proves impossible to find. The frozen landscape, for all its beauty, is harsh; it separates, confounds and ultimately disappears as quietly as it came … the work of a consummate artist who can simultaneously engage with her inherent whimsy and divorce herself from it, producing something both otherworldly and disarmingly, invitingly human.”

“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 ...”

Soldout Blog: “she has made one of the best albums of her career…it’s a triumph”

Novelist and poet Collin Kelley describes 50 Words For Snow as “perfection” in his review at Soldout Blog:

“Among Angels” is an absolutely stunning piece of work and features Kate’s best vocal performance on the album. The new, husky-voiced Kate we heard on Director’s Cut and throughout most of this album seems to melt away as her voice soars over the heart-rending lyrics: “There’s someone who’s loved you forever, but you don’t know it.” The song begins with a false start and you hear Kate very quietly say “sorry” before she returns to the piano. It’s odd that she left it in, but also charming in an unexplainable way.”

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 …”

“It really is that good”: HeavyVinyl

Keiron at HeavyVinyl is very wary of all the good reviews of 50 Words … but guess what:

I may have read more reviews of this than any musical opus released this year. It’s partly my own fault as I too am one of “those people” whose rabid love for all things Kate can bore the shit out of people at parties … Every article I read makes the situation worse as there is a huge consensus that this is her best work… and this, predictably, grates with my sensibilities…. as I am one of those people who, when told what to think by critics and zeitgeist alike, tends to reject this perceived opinion with every fabric of my DNA. I. Just. Can’t. Help. It … Kate has stripped back the orchestration of “The Red Shoes” and “Ariel” to make a record that is both brave and beautiful. But despite the simplicity it is never sparse.. in fact it’s positively dense with ideas, lyrics, trembling pianos, choirs and stories that swirl round the listener like a blizzard. You can lose yourself in the melody and language and warm yourself with that incredible quivering voice. I know, I’m gushing, but it really is that good. Kate Bush really is an artist without peer and this is a perfect album for any season …”

“Awful … ludicrous … Meatloaf”: BBC Radio 6 Roundtable

50 Words was comprehensively trashed on Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable on BBC Radio 6 this evening. Miranda Sawyer (as we already know) thought it was “awful”, Jamie Hince thought it “ludicrous”, and Elizabeth Morris confessed to being confused and  compared it to Meatloaf. Should you want to listen it’s just short of 48 minutes into the stream.

“Cannot discern what is so great about it”: Rock’s Backpages

Barney Hoskyns, the co-founder and editorial director of Rock’s Backpages:

As a staunch and loyal fan of Dame Katherine, I have to confess to some surprise at the plethora of 5-star reviews elicited by 50 TYPES OF SNOW. I’ve spent a week with the album and cannot discern what is so great about it. Even if you don’t miss the wild pop genius of the ’80s and love the mature piano melancholia of middle-aged Bush, she did the latter a lot better on AERIAL … Only on “Wild Man” does she pull off the kind of haunting pop classic we remember …. Or am I missing something?

“A great experience, but it all feels somewhat flat”: Muzik Discovery

B- from Eli Kleman at Muzik Discovery:

an album that sees the British pop royalty at the top of her game, years and years into her career. What is more impressive, however, is not that Bush has managed to remain relevant in a scene that isn’t exactly conducive to late career releases, but it is that the artist has once again challenged the definition of what a pop album can and should be. 50 Words For Snow is unlike a lot of the drivel the genre pumps out, in that is a beautiful, haunting, and introspective release that shows that although artists may age, their craft can remain just as incredible. 50 Words For Snow is a notable release for sure; a collection of seven mysterious entities that have received utmost care from Bush. They ebb and flow with a serene beauty, and move like the entrancing falling snow. Never once does the album ever get worked up … Although much of it is truly exemplary, 50 Words for Snow never actually goes anywhere. Yes, the luscious chords and inherently gorgeous singing goes a long way in making a great experience, but it all feels somewhat flat … It’s a beefy work for sure, which typically wouldn’t give cause for criticism, but it just stays at one level and never goes any further. Bush does an absolutely stunning job at creating a wonderful atmosphere, but it really is hampered by the painfully dull pace. Aside from that admittedly egregious stumble, Kate Bush still manages to craft one heck of an immersive album…”

“A spare, gorgeous album”: 77 Square

3/4 from Rob Thomas at 77 Square:

Largely minimizing the lush orchestrations she’s known for, Bush has delivered a spare, gorgeous album … Could any other songwriter get away with this other than Bush? Somehow, she takes potentially pretentious, even preposterous premises and makes them deeply felt through the elegant arrangements, evocative lyrics and, above all, the quavering conviction of that powerful voice. The result is the perfect soundtrack for a winter’s night, not so much as a brace against the cold, but an embrace.”

“One of the year’s most imaginative albums”: Now Toronto

Five “N”s from Kevin Ritchie at Now Toronto:

“a solitary tone pervades these seven shivery compositions, many of which unfurl slowly and deliberately from Bush’s trembling piano. There’s a grace and simplicity to the arrangements. Jazzy syncopations give way to almost a cappella interludes, twittering guitar riffs and choral harmonies. The production has a lighter touch than her previous two efforts, but is no less considered … Best are Bush’s vocals, distinctly lower now but as brilliant and playful as ever. She grumbles, coos, burrs and wails, drawing out syllables with such devastating intensity …”

“A masterpiece. Its THE album that defines THE artist”: The Silver Tongue

Another five stars from James Brightman at The Silver Tongue:

the album is a microcosm that draws you in with a delicate embrace, belying the arctic theme with a warmth that you wouldn’t find in many other places, such is the beauty of Kate’s voice (possibly at its best after a 30+ year career) … When the album ended, I half-expected to be left with a brown sludge swimming around my shoes. I was sad to see the world go. 50 Words for Snow is a masterpiece. Its THE album that defines THE artist.

Allmusic 4-star review: “…it’s all but impossible to find peers”

Thom Jurek at Allmusic gives 50 Words For Snow a 4-star review:

“Despite the length of the songs, and perhaps because of them, it is easily the most spacious, sparsely recorded offering in her catalog. Its most prominent sounds are Bush’s voice, her acoustic piano, and Steve Gadd’s gorgeous drumming — though other instruments appear (as do some minimal classical orchestrations). With songs centered on winter, 50 Words For Snow engages the natural world and myth — both Eastern and Western — and fantasy. It is abstract, without being the least bit difficult to embrace….such a strange pop record, it’s all but impossible to find peers. While it shares sheer ambition with Scott Walkers’s The Drift and PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake, it sounds like neither; Bush’s album is equally startling because its will toward the mysterious and elliptical is balanced by its beguiling accessibility.”

Swedish TV review of the album

From SVT in Sweden (with thanks to Henrik). We hope this is a good review, but unfortunately our Swedish isn’t up to much! 🙂

Update: Swedish fans tell us that the reviewers in the clip say the album is Kate’s strongest and best yet and they love it. They also say that Kate is like the “ever changing snow”. Thanks guys.

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