It's difficult to say what made Kate Bush so proactive in 2011. Having flown conspicuously under the radar since 2005's Aerial, Bush returned earlier this year with Director's Cut, a collection of reworked material from earlier albums. Then, just a few months later, 50 Words For Snow, her first original material in seven years, is released. It's a spacious record, with its seven tracks clocking in excess of an hour. There's a lot to experience on 50 Words For Snow, requiring several listens to peel back its skin. Much like the rest of her material, a sense of patience is required when listening to it. As a consequence this album isn't going to appeal to those who aren't already patrons of her irreverent style.
Dominated by skeletal piano melodies, Steve Gadd's ambient drumming and, of course, Bush's voice, the album burns slowly and never quite lifts its pulse to any real significance - which is fine, of course - but just renders the collection incredibly divisive. To put it simply, you have to have an affinity with Bush's earlier work to be able to appreciate this in any real way.
The title track consists of special guest Stephen Fry listing off (you guessed it) '50 Words For Snow', to Bush's polite encouragement, "Come on, man, you've got 44 to go", an admirable lack of convention for the term "popular music", but more novelty than anything else. 'Misty' is the most satisfying tune among the collection, a sort of jazz-infused lounge act, but hardly a standout.
50 Words For Snow is a strange record, almost beyond comparison to anything else in popular music that hasn't been released by Kate Bush. This is a Kate Bush album for hardcore Kate Bush fans. If that's you, then you'll love this. It's just not for everyone, is all.